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Characterizing Air Emissions from Natural Gas Drilling and Well Completion Operations in Garfield County, Colorado

Visualisation of air pollution by a natural gas well.

Air contaminants emitted from a gas well made visible. (Graphic taken from Collett 2016)

This public and industry sponsored field study by Jeff Collett and colleagues, Colorado State University (CSU), is the first in class to quantify emissions of chemical compounds (air toxics, ozone precursors, and methane) during new well development and to characterize how these compounds are dispersed in the atmosphere downwind of the site. The study was conducted in Garfield County, Colorado, and designed to quantify emissions rather than just measuring concentrations because accurately determining emissions is the key to predicting impacts at any place and time. Measurements were conducted over three years, results yield information needed for use in subsequent health and air quality impact assessments.

Key findings:

  • Methane emissions during flowback are typically much larger than during fracking and drilling emissions.
  • VOC emissions vary widely by compound and for a given compound.
  • Methane emissions are most abundant followed by light alkanes (ethane and propane) and toluene.
  • Flowback has highest median BTEX emissions.
  • Robust set of activity-specific emissions are key to future assessment of health and air quality impacts of natural gas development.

Bibliography:
Jeff Collett, Jay Ham, Jeff Pierce, Arsineh Hecobian, Andrea Clements, Kira Shonkwiler, Yong Zhou, Yury Desyaterik, Landan MacDonald, Brad Wells, Noel Hilliard, and Air Resource Specialists, Inc. (research team)
Characterizing Air Emissions from Natural Gas Drilling and Well Completion Operations in Garfield County, Colorado
Articles in preparation
Presentation by Jeff Collett, June 14, 2016

See also:
Press release by CSU, June 14, 2016

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