Frackers Spill Olympic Pool’s Worth of Hydrochloric Acid in Oklahoma

Written by Ari Phillips

An acid spill on Monday in rural Kingfisher County northwest of Oklahoma City, Okla., could turn out to be the largest spill “in relation to fracking materials” in the state according to an Oklahoma Corporation Commission spokesman.

Spokesman Matt Skinner said 480 barrels of fracking-related hydrochloric (HCL) acid, nearly enough to fill an Olympic-sized swimming pool, emptied out of a tank where it was stored. Acid is used in the fracking process to both clean wells and stimulate the flow of oil and gas. The cause of the spill, which occurred in an alfalfa field, is under investigation.

Skinner told ThinkProgress this is the largest frack-related spill he is aware of in the state’s history. He was unable to comment on the cause of the spill because it is currently under investigation, but said they “think they know the cause.”

“Our main concern is to get the area back to the way it was before the spill happened,” said Skinner. While there are no water wells in the immediate vicinity, there were concerns if not properly taken care of the acid could taint the nearby town of Hennessey’s water supply. A nearby creek flows into the town’s water system and a a rainstorm could result in contamination. However, Skinner said the area was bermed off and the remediation company was able to contain the chemicals through any rain so far. A berm is a small hill or wall or dirt or sand separating two areas.

The Oklahoma Corporation Commission is overseeing the cleanup of the well, which was operated by Blake Production, an independent oil and gas producer operating wells in four states. The company’s owner, Blake Vernon said the company will compensate the landowner for the next six years for the loss of his alfalfa crop. The landowners’ lawyer Matthew R. Oppel said this may not suffice.

“The spill occurred in the center of my client’s alfalfa field and while the property is currently used for agricultural purposes the Hawks hoped to build a home on their Turkey Creek property,” said Oppel. “Unfortunately the spill will not only affect the Hawks immediate use and enjoyment, but future development may be impossible.”

Recent studies have also revealed a probable link between the wastewater injection process of fracking, in which leftover water used during fracking is injected deep into the ground, and earthquakes. In Oklahoma, these so-called “frackquakes” may be linked to the more than 2,500 small earthquakes that have hit the state in the last five years.

Other nearby states including Arkansas, Kansas and Texas have also seen a distinct rise in small- to medium-sized earthquakes over the last few years just as the fracking boom has escalated. As of early July, Oklahoma had experienced more than twice the number of earthquakes as California, making it the most seismically active state in the lower 48. Just ten years ago it was ranked 17th.

Oklahoma is also one of the top states in overall oil spills, having experienced 951 reported oil spills in 2013 — more than every other fossil-fuel producing state except North Dakota according to an EnergyWire investigation. However in North Dakota companies have to report any spill larger than one barrel, or 42 gallons, whereas in Oklahoma the threshold is 10 barrels.

This post originally appeared on ThinkProgress.

Photo Credit: Thinkstock


Wanda C.
Wanda C2 years ago

Big eyeopener for those that are pro fracking... even if this is "cleaned up", the place will never be the same and the repercussions to the environment will be affected. I do not want to even think of a disaster at an even larger scale when "all is finished and done..." Fracking should be banned period anywhere and everywhere. Look for alternate safest sources of energy.

Charlie Rush
Charlene R2 years ago

The needless destruction never ends.
Will we never have anyone strong enough to stand up for the health of our citizens.

Angela Roquemore
Angela R2 years ago

Marcia V.: Because 99.9999ad infinitum% of US citizens are sheeple who beleive everyting the oil industry controlled govenment tells them.

Angela Roquemore
Angela R2 years ago

Steve G.: So you're advocating a return to medieval medicine?

Steve G.
Steve G.2 years ago

Stop buying and driving cars. Seriously! Tire production, Plastics and textiles used in production of vehicles, Auto paint, not to mention the fuel all require oil and gas. Electricity plants account for about 50% of all natural gas usage. Makeup, lotions, cleaners appliances, food packaging, food production, possessing, shipping, storage and sanitation all take oil and gas. 60% of your television is made from products coming from oil and gas. Road building equipment, asphalt, composition shingles on your roof, strollers, baby toys, disposable diapers are all partly or completely made from oil. How about medical? Hospital floors are just about all made from petroleum. All those fancy x-ray, cat scan, sonogram machines are made from plastics and plastic coated wires from petroleum. Hospital beds and even medications to a degree are made from petroleum products. Clothing and textiles? Computers and sell phones? How about this. Do you fly? One of the biggest supporters of oil and gas! So why can we not stop fracing? You the wasteful materialistic consumer!!!

Marcia Vinson
Marcia Vinson2 years ago

Why can't fracking be stopped?

Beverly S.
Beverly S2 years ago

Moron$ !

John chapman
John c2 years ago

We're talking Oklahoma, here.

Hello,.... Oklahoma Crude.

This state, probably like no other, in umbilically tied to the oil industry.

This will disappear without a ripple.

Oil pays the fiddler, they call the tune.

Mary L.
Mary L2 years ago

Fracking is destroying our country and people who don't cooperate get sued.

Steve G.
Steve G.2 years ago

It is true that man is ruining the earth. I used to work in the fracking industry and just like ALL industry including mining, logging, chemical, petrochemical, wind energy, food production, textiles and what not, greed has found a way to turn all industry into something ruining the earth fueled by all citizens on the face of the earth that use a vehicle, cool or heat their home, use electricity, modern medical technology, or whatever. However I do have to point out that according to Wikipedia, an Olympic size swimming pool holds about 660,000 gallons of water. A frac tank holds 550 barrels or 22,600 gallons of water and it was a frac tank that leaked this acid. It might also be pointed out that a lot of acids are found naturally especially in Yellowstone National Park and are run off in many water sources there. Hydrochloric acid is something you do not want in your eyes or to drink but even at a strong concentration such as this can be neutralized with water if you do get it in your eyes as I have several times. It can also burn if left on the skin for a while but even a bottle of water can be used to keep lasting damage from occurring and wash stations are set up on locations so that if someone gets soaked in it they can be neutralized. I have probably been drenched in it 50 plus times with no lasting damage whatsoever. Where it can do damage is if it is dropped in a river at high concentrations, (not diluted). It can kill fish in the immediate area until it is also dilut