Polymer Flooding (also called Chemical Flooding) is used to reduce the surface tension between water and the oil and makes the water more viscous. This helps to move the oil and increases the recovery factor. The polymer used is usually polyacrylamide which is said to be non-toxic. What the oil companies don’t want you to know is that it is made from acrylamideiii and can degrade to acrylamideiv which is a well-known neurotoxin in human and animal studies. It is also a probable carcinogen and increased cancer risks have been documented in rats and humans.
Solvents used in SAP operations generally involve variable composition with time, changing from heavier solvents to lighter solvents as the field produces. Therefore the toxity of the oil changes with time. Since these chemicals were never intended to come into direct contact with humans or other organisms there has been little concern for their toxicity in oil field injection operations. This is little comfort to the people of Mayflower or other communities who may be on the receiving end of these unknown, secret chemicals.
i CENOVUS 2011 Pelican Lake Grand Rapids Project
ii Jahan,K., S. Balzer & P. Mosto 2008 Toxicity of nonionic surfactants
iii Daughton, Christian G. (23 June 1988). "Quantitation of Acrylamide (and Polyacrylamide): Critical review of methods for trace determination/formulation analysis & Future-research recommendations" (PDF). EPA Environmental Sciences Division homepage. The California Public Health Foundation.
iv Cheng, Peiyao 2004 M.S. Thesis University of South Florida
Chemical and Photolytic Degradation of Polyacrylamides Used in Potable Water Treatment