Date of Award
Master of Science - Environmental Sciences
Gina Fe Causin
Eagle Ford Shale (EFS) play is one out of five major oil and gas formations in Texas, found in the South-Eastern region with approximately 30 counties. In addition to natural gas, it produces crude oil and petroleum liquids which in recent times has resulted in a surge in drilling due to a new drilling technology – hydraulic fracturing that injects massive quantities of water along with sand and chemical additives into a well to create tiny hairline cracks in rock formations. The success of this technology has made gas extraction more economically feasible. However, this technique has generated an array of potential threat to the environment and human health especially on air quality since the beginning of its use in 2008. The air quality concerns include the release of large amounts of greenhouse gases from these effluent and volatile organic compounds from transport vehicles, machineries and storage tanks.
This study assessed the adequacy of the air monitoring stations present in the different counties that make up the EFS that are being utilized by the State for ambient air quality monitoring and policy making purposes. The assessment was based on 40CFR 58.10, that required the State to conduct a quinquennial network assessment for the existing air monitoring stations based on specific criteria. This was done in this study to validate the adequacy of the pollution concentration data collected from these monitors. Data retrieved from the monitors were further used to statistically show if significant changes in the air quality with time exist using the Wilcoxon signed rank test.
Results from the assessments showed limitations in the monitoring network in providing adequate data for trend analysis. This is due to unavailable or lost monitored data, malfunction in equipment or absence of air pollution monitors in some of the most heavily drilled counties like Brazos County. Also the statistical results showed a significant change in air quality for carbon monoxide in Webb County only (p =0.017) while there was no significant change for the other pollutants. In addition, the results was also inconclusive due to low statistical power since the bulk of the data used came from monitors located in only two counties: Fayette and Laredo out of the 30 EFS counties.
These results point to the need for adequate continuous air monitoring in regions where this technology is used to better safeguard human and environmental health. In order to reduce uncertainties, further studies that incorporate other factors that contribute to air pollution like weather and nearby industries are needed to correctly gauge the level of impact this technology has on the overall air quality in the Eagle Ford Shale.
Fimibama, Laura B., "An Exploratory Study on the Possible Effect of Hydraulic Fracturing Activities on Air Quality in the Eagle Ford Shale Region of Texas." (2016). Electronic Theses and Dissertations. 67.
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