An exploratory study of air emissions associated with shale gas development and production in the Barnett Shale

Alisa Rich, James P. Grover, Melanie L. Sattler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

44 Scopus citations

Abstract

Information regarding air emissions from shale gas extraction and production is critically important given production is occurring in highly urbanized areas across the United States. Objectives of this exploratory study were to collect ambient air samples in residential areas within 61 m (200 feet) of shale gas extraction/production and determine whether a "fingerprint" of chemicals can be associated with shale gas activity. Statistical analyses correlating fingerprint chemicals with methane, equipment, and processes of extraction/production were performed. Ambient air sampling in residential areas of shale gas extraction and production was conducted at six counties in the Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW) Metroplex from 2008 to 2010. The 39 locations tested were identified by clients that requested monitoring. Seven sites were sampled on 2 days (typically months later in another season), and two sites were sampled on 3 days, resulting in 50 sets of monitoring data. Twenty-four-hour passive samples were collected using summa canisters. Gas chromatography/mass spectrometer analysis was used to identify organic compounds present. Methane was present in concentrations above laboratory detection limits in 49 out of 50 sampling data sets. Most of the areas investigated had atmospheric methane concentrations considerably higher than reported urban background concentrations (1.8-2.0 ppmv). Other chemical constituents were found to be correlated with presence of methane. A principal components analysis (PCA) identified multivariate patterns of concentrations that potentially constitute signatures of emissions from different phases of operation at natural gas sites. The first factor identified through the PCA proved most informative. Extreme negative values were strongly and statistically associated with the presence of compressors at sample sites. The seven chemicals strongly associated with this factor (o-xylene, ethylbenzene, 1,2,4-trimethylbenzene, m- and p-xylene, 1,3,5-trimethylbenzene, toluene, and benzene) thus constitute a potential fingerprint of emissions associated with compression. Implications: Information regarding air emissions from shale gas development and production is critically important given production is now occurring in highly urbanized areas across the United States. Methane, the primary shale gas constituent, contributes substantially to climate change; other natural gas constituents are known to have adverse health effects. This study goes beyond previous Barnett Shale field studies by encompassing a wider variety of production equipment (wells, tanks, compressors, and separators) and a wider geographical region. The principal components analysis, unique to this study, provides valuable information regarding the ability to anticipate associated shale gas chemical constituents.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)61-72
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of the Air and Waste Management Association
Volume64
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2014

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