Use of 1,3,5–Trimethylbenzene in Unconventional Shale Gas Hydraulic Fracturing Operations and Potential for Water and Soil Contamination




Patel, Tarang Mukeshbhai
Patel, Maulikkumar Natubhai
Rich, Alisa


Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



Introduction and Objective: Hydraulic fracturing (fracking) of unconventional shale gas formations allows for extraction of natural gas in tight geologic formations. Large quantities of water, proppants and chemical additives are required during hydraulic fracturing. These chemicals have the potential to contaminate water and soil if not properly used and contained. The chemical’s unique characteristics increase the potential for human exposure from contaminated water, soil and bioaccumulation in fish. The objective of this study is to examine the use of 1,3,5-Trimethyl benzene (TMB) as a chemical additive in fracking and the potential for human ingestion. Methodology: A meta-analysis was performed and articles related to 1,3,5-TMB evaluated. Databases searched included Science direct, PubMed, Scopus, Web of Science, ACS ChemWorx and TOXNET. Keywords searched include 1,3,5-Trimethyl benzene, Mesitylene, soil and water contamination, runoff, ground, surface and drinking water, fish kills, fracking fluids and petroleum industry. Published articles dates ranged from 1993-2012. Inclusion criteria were chemical properties of 1,3,5-TMB (Mesitylene), TMB water concentration, substantiality of TMB in water and soil, use of TMB in hydraulic fracturing. Exclusion criteria were health effects of TMB, air pollution, aerosolization of TMB, and toxicology studies on animals. All the relevant abstracts were evaluated with 150 articles reviewed in full-text. Results: This study confirmed 1,3,5-TMB used as a chemical additive in hydraulic fracturing. Published studies showed high concentrations of 1,3,5-TMB present in produced water from oil and gas production discharge. Migration of 1,3,5-TMB from accidental spills, uncontained fluids on pad sites, and holding ponds was found to increase the potential for municipal water, surface and groundwater contamination. Migration of 1,3,5-TMB in ambient temperature water was found to be possible due to its high concentration being used at fracking site. Conclusion: The use of 1,3,5-TMB as a chemical additive in hydraulic fracturing was confirmed in this study. Published literature supports the ability of 1,3,5-TMB to contaminate surface and ground water used as municipal water reservoirs. Bioaccumulation of 1,3,5-TMB in fish was found to be possible due to its low partition coefficient.