Fracking Fluid, Flowback, and Formation Water: What’s the Difference?

We spend a lot of time on this blog talking about the ways in which to contain a variety of liquids that are considered dangerous and contaminated. But we don’t often talk about what these fluids are and where they came from. It’s important to fully understand the process of hydraulic fracking in order to understand the process that must happen in order return wastewater back to the environment. Waste Water Solutions provides a variety of options for fracking companies to be able to store and eliminate fracking liquids according to regulations at an affordable cost. Consider the composition and differences of the following components of fracking liquids.

Fracking Fluid

The most commonly referred to liquid in the fracking industry and the media is fracking fluid. Often, this term is used interchangeably to refer to any type of liquid used at a frac site. However, it does refer to a specific liquid composition for a specific use. Fracking fluid is water mixed with sand, with one percent made from a variety of chemicals intended to reduce corrosion and friction in the well. These chemicals are also intended to help release more natural gas than would be possible without them. Overall, the chemical makeup is considered a trade secret and protected as such, though companies each have their own mixture and can choose from roughly 600 different chemicals.


Flowback is the liquid that comes back up the well anywhere from days to weeks after it has been forced down to break up the shale. This liquid is akin in chemical composition to fracking fluid and can return anywhere from 10 percent to 100 percent back to the surface. Flowback is then stored in frac tanks and allowed to either evaporate or is sent for disposal following regulations.

Formation Water

Both flowback and formation water can come up the well during the same time frame of days to weeks after the fracking fluid is forced down the well. However, formation water has a different chemical composition than flowback. Formation water includes many components found in the shale that the natural gas is being released from. Formation water is the biggest risk, as it can contain radioactive isotopes that were in the shale and other chemicals. Formation water is also collected and stored in frac tanks with the flowback until it can be appropriately disposed of.

Well Water Solutions is the affordable option for storing both flowback and formation water. Additionally, WWS can provide water management and return water to an environmentally feasible chemical composition that meets even the highest standards in the industry. Contact WWS to learn more about available frac tanks and services.

Our Director
Willaim wright

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