Research

Our Compendium

Our Compendium

Download our compendium of studies demonstrating the safety and health benefits of fracking.

There is a nationwide trend to develop shale formations due to advances in horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing technology. The Barnett Shale in north Texas is one of the largest onshore natural gas fields in the US, and has experienced exponential growth since the 1990’s. This immense amount of well development and gas production has occurred near heavily populated, urban areas, leading to increased public concern regarding the impacts of these activities on human health and welfare.

Limited direct measurements of criteria pollutants emissions and precursors, as well as natural gas constituents, from Marcellus shale gas development activities contribute to uncertainty about their atmospheric impact. Real-time measurements were made with the Aerodyne Research Inc. Mobile Laboratory to characterize emission rates of atmospheric pollutants. Sites investigated include production well pads, a well pad with a drill rig, a well completion, and compressor stations. Tracer release ratio methods were used to estimate emission rates.

Emissions from point sources have decreased since the emissions inventory was developed for 2008. The following table shows the emissions from all point sources has decreased since 2008. The SOx emissions have decreased significantly as a result of the installation of control equipment on the electric generating units as well as the conversion to natural gas.

Since 1997, an increasing fraction of electric power has been generated from natural gas in the United States. Here we use data from continuous emission monitoring systems (CEMS), which measure emissions at the stack of most U.S. electric power generation units, to investigate how this switch affected the emissions of CO2, NOx, and SO2. Per unit of energy produced, natural gas power plants equipped with combined cycle technology emit on an average 44% of the CO2 compared with coal power plants.

Shale gas exploration and production (E&P) has experienced substantial growth across the U.S. over the last decade. The Barnett Shale, in north-central Texas, contains one of the largest, most active onshore gas fields in North America, stretching across 5000 square miles and having an estimated 15,870 producing wells as of 2011. Given that these operations may occur in relatively close proximity to populated/urban areas, concerns have been expressed about potential impacts on human health.

PM2.5 refers to particulate matter 2.5 microns or smaller, microscopic dust particles created directly from burning fuel but also by secondary chemical reactions from emitted sulphur and nitrous oxides (SOx and NOx). These particulates are so tiny that they penetrate deep into human lungs where they are absorbed into the blood and lead to cardiorespiratory disease. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates PM2.5 is responsible for about 75,000 premature deaths per year in the United States,1 even though US measured air quality levels are typically ranked in the good to moderate categories, with an AQI (air quality index) of 0 to 100. [EPA 2010; Lepeule 2011].

The current evidence indicates that the potential risks to public health from exposure to the emissions associated with shale gas extraction are low if the operations are properly run and regulated. Where potential risks have been identified in the literature, the reported problems are typically a result of operational failure and a poor regulatory environment. Therefore good on-site management and appropriate regulation of all aspects from exploratory drilling, gas capture and the use and storage of fracking fluid is essential to minimise the risk to the environment and public health.

As directed by the Natural Gas Horizontal Well Control Act (the Act) passed by the West Virginia Legislature on December 14, 2011, the following is in fulfillment of the mandate pursuant to W. Va. Code §22-6A-22 that the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection’s (DEP) Office of Oil and Gas (OOG) report to the Legislature on the need, if any, for further regulation of air pollution occurring from well sites, including the possible health impacts, the need for air quality inspections during drilling, the need for inspections of compressors, pits and impoundments, and any other potential air quality impacts that could be generated from this type of drilling activity that could harm human health or the environment.

Is fracking making things worse, better, or just less worse? New research shows new builds in gas-fired power plants and the associated surge in fracking have dramatically reduced emissions across Pennsylvania, including deadly particulates, heavy metals, and the NOx and SOx which cause smog, acid rain, and health problems.

Emissions from point sources have decreased since the last complete emissions inventory was developed for 2008. The following table shows the emissions from all point sources has decreased since 2008. The SOx emissions have decreased as a result of the installation of control equipment on the electric generating units as well as the conversion to natural gas.