FORT WORTH, Texas--(EON: Enhanced Online News)--A far-reaching new study concludes that shale gas exploration and production activities – including hydraulic fracturing – have not resulted in community-wide exposures to chemicals at levels that pose health concerns.
“Evaluation of Impact of Shale Gas Operations in the Barnett Shale Region on Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) in Air and Potential Human Health Risks”
The peer-reviewed study, titled “Evaluation of Impact of Shale Gas Operations in the Barnett Shale Region on Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) in Air and Potential Human Health Risks” (Bunch et al., of ToxStrategies), represents the first large-scale evaluation of potential human health risks and impacts. The study analyzed third-party data from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) monitoring network in the Barnett Shale region in north central Texas, the most extensive air monitoring network in any shale gas field in the country.
The study, funded by the Barnett Shale Energy Education Council, underwent independent, scientific peer-review before publication and appeared in Science of the Total Environment. Key study findings and analysis include:
- “Based on a comparison of the measured chemical concentrations in ambient air to federal and state health-based values, results showed shale gas production activities have not resulted in community-wide exposures to chemicals at levels that would pose a health concern.
- Investigators reviewed more than 4.6 million concentration values – representing data from seven air monitors at six locations – generated by the TCEQ monitoring network over an 11-year period up to 2011.
- Up to 105 volatile organic compounds (VOCs) were evaluated.
- No air concentration values exceeded applicable acute health-based air compensation values (HBACVs).
- Air sampling included a range of shale gas activities, including drilling, hydraulic fracturing and production.”
Among the key differences between this study and previous research, ToxStrategies relied upon a robust data set that included more VOCs measured, more monitoring locations, monitoring of operations over a longer period of time, the use of automated gas chromatographs operating continuously and monitors located in both dry and wet gas areas.
The Barnett Shale region of Texas contains one of the largest, most active and mature natural gas fields in the U.S., stretching across 5,000 square miles and with an estimated 15,870 producing wells as of 2011. Based on the high density of active wells in the region, the findings may be useful for understanding potential health risks of other shale plays.