The Maiden Rock mine provides tiny, brown sugar-like granules of silica sand used by the oil industry in a drilling process called hydraulic fracturing.
A Halliburton executive took a sip of fracking fluid, in an effort to show the controversial process of injecting chemicals deep into bedrock to push out natural gas is safe.
Halliburton CEO Dave Lesar had a fellow executive take a sip of CleanStim, a concoction he says can be safely used for hydraulic fracturing while at a conference held by the Colorado Oil and Gas Association. Critics have said fluids used in the process contain chemicals that leach into the water table and contaminate drinking water, rivers, lakes and streams.
Environmentalists applauded the effort - to a point.
"I thought if this stuff was so benign, why wouldn't the CEO drink it himself?" Environmental Defense Fund's Mark Brownstein, who attended, told The Associated Press. "[But] quite honestly, a homeowner in Pennsylvania doesn't have the option of having an underling drink his water. He has to do it himself."
The process gained notoriety in the documentary "Gasland," and critics say the industry is secretive about what chemicals are used and what effect it has on the environment.
Most natural gas wells in the U.S. are fracked, and the oil and gas industry has spent big on an ad campaign touting the abundance of the fuel and the relative safety of extracting it. The fluid used has several types of chemicals, and the industry claims engineers have found more benign substitutes, said Colorado State University environmental engineering professor Ken Carlson, who also attended the conference.
"The thing I took away is the industry is stepping up to plate and taking these concerns seriously," Carlson said. "Halliburton is showing they can get the same economic benefits or close to that by putting a little effort into reformulating the fluids."