Researchers Unveil Ways To Reduce Environmental, Health Risks of Shale Gas ExtractionSource: West Virginia University | 30 June 2014
A new study by researchers at West Virginia University offers 10 recommendations for reducing the environmental and human health effects associated with horizontal drilling and the hydraulic fracturing process.
The recommendations address air, noise, and light pollution; water management; and engineering flaws associated with horizontal gas well development and completion.
The study, titled Practical Measures for Reducing the Risk of Environmental Contamination in Shale Energy Production, is co-authored by Paul Ziemkiewicz, director of the West Virginia Water Research Institute, John Quaranta, assistant professor of environmental engineering at the Benjamin M. Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources, and Michael McCawley, interim chair of the Department of Occupational and Environmental Health Sciences at the School of Public Health.
Gas extraction from shale gas formations has been made possible by recent advances in horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing technology. In the eastern United States, the Marcellus formation gas play is one of the nation’s major natural gas reserves and, in West Virginia alone, nearly 3,000 horizontal wells have been developed since 2008.
While rapid adoption of these methods has led to a surge in natural gas production in the United States, it has also increased public concern about its environmental and human health effects.
“These facilities are often located within a few hundred meters of homes and farms, many of which are supplied by shallow water wells,” Ziemkiewicz said. “As a result, many of the public’s concerns focus on air and groundwater pollution as well as light and noise associated with horizontal drilling and well completion. This study was initiated largely due to these public concerns.”
Ziemkiewicz, along with the other researchers, conducted a thorough review of environmental literature relevant to shale gas development and examined more than 15 Marcellus shale facilities in northern West Virginia.