Government refuses to release fracking chemical cocktail mix despite repeated FOI requests

Government refuses to release fracking chemical cocktail mix despite repeated FOI requests

Protect Country Alliance has lodged a formal complaint with the Northern Territory Information Commissioner after a Freedom of Information request that would have revealed the chemical cocktails used by fracking companies was repeatedly knocked back, with the CSIRO claiming it couldn't provide the chemical lists because they were company "trade secrets".

The Alliance originally applied for any emails or documents sitting with the CSIRO that might shed light on the likely presence of bacteria that exist in Territory aquifers that could corrode gas wells over time, increasing the risk of underground water contamination.

The documents that were returned were nearly entirely redacted. However, they did reveal what appeared to be an attempt to not only hide reference to any corrosion-causing bacteria, but also hide lists of chemicals used in fracking fluids as well.

PCA subsequently requested a formal Internal Review of the redaction, which in turn led to the CSIRO issuing a statement of reasons for its refusal, which included the risk of breaching commercially valuable information” and noting “trade secrets” over revealing the chemical cocktail mix.

The refusal to supply the documents in full comes after fracking operators in the USA were found to be using PFAS - or “forever chemicals” in their chemical mixtures, alongside a host of known carcinogens.

“Hiding behind the joke argument of ‘commercial in confidence’ is typical of fracking companies - they got away with it for years in the USA, but we’re not going to let them get away with it here,” said Protect Country Alliance spokesperson Graeme Sawyer.

“It’s a particularly bogus argument in the NT, because the Pepper Inquiry (recommendation 7.10) was unequivocal about the need for fracking companies to “report and publicly disclose” the “identities, volumes and concentrations of chemicals to be used”*. 

“There are already too many communities across the NT, like Katherine, that are facing PFAS contamination disasters. We cannot allow one more drop of these forever chemicals to sink into Territory soil.

“There are also many examples of other chemicals used in unconventional gas causing contamination events overseas and at home. This includes hormone disrupting chemicals and contamination of drinking water. It is a fundamental human right to have access to clean, drinking water and the communities of the NT are no exception.

“At the very least, the public deserves the right to know what fracking companies are drilling into our land and water. We can’t afford to risk contamination of our precious underground water.”

Among the other particularly nasty contaminants and carcinogens we expect to be used in fracking chemical cocktails in the NT, based on those used at other fracking operations are:

  • Diethanolamine - Animal studies showed renal and liver cancers, testicular degeneration.
  • BE-9 Biocide – (Tributyl tetradecyl phosphonium chloride) - Classified as very toxic material, corrosive material. Toxic to aquatic organisms, may cause long-term adverse effects in the aquatic environment.
  • DCA-13003 (Chlorous acid, sodium chlorate) - Severe skin irritant, is toxic if swallowed and may cause damage to the thyroid, contact with acids liberates very toxic gas.
  • BARACOR 100 (Morpholine process residues, Methanol, Nitrilotriacetic acid, trisodium salt monohydrate) - Severe acute and chronic toxicity. Animal studies show kidney damage, haematuria, hydronephrosis and tumours of the urinary and haematopoietic system. Aquatic hazard. Harmful to aquatic life with long-lasting effects.
  • ALDACIDE G (Glutaraldehyde) - Animal studies showed a statistically significant increase in the incidence of large granular cell lymphatic leukaemia. Occupational exposure to glutaraldehyde has resulted in occupational asthma, significant skin, respiratory system and eye irritation.
  • Glyoxal (Ethanedial) - Hazardous for human health. Mutagenic (chemical agent that changes the genetic material, usually DNA, of an organism). Skin and eye irritant. If released to soil, glyoxal is expected to have very high mobility.


*The NT Government and the companies get around this recommendation by including an abridged version of the chemicals that might be used in fracking project Environmental Management Plans, but these lists lack full detail.