Air Emissions

Risk assessment can be used in HIAs to direct health risk prevention strategies. Risk management approaches should focus on reducing exposures to emissions during well completions. These preliminary results indicate that health effects resulting from air emissions during unconventional NGD warrant further study. Prospective studies should focus on health effects associated with air pollution

Measurements of propane, benzene, and ethyne in northeastern Colorado are compared to other U.S. cities in order to highlight the influence of various emissionsources on the observed mixing ratios of these compounds

A study in the journal Human and Ecological Risk Assessment showed more than 50 NMHCs were found near gas wells in rural Colorado, including 35 that affect the brain and nervous system. Some were detected at levels high enough to potentially harm children who are exposed to them before birth.

Study One of the few peer-reviewed studies in this area.  “We did what is called a ‘life cycle analysis,’ that is, you take not just the burning of the fuel –– whether it’s coal, oil or natural gas –– but you take into account the production of greenhouse gases from the start of the investigation to produce coal or oil or natural gas all the way up to the end use,” Ingraffea said.  Using this more comprehensive analysis, Ingraffea determined that “the greenhouse gas footprint of natural gas … is larger than the greenhouse gas footprint of coal and of oil.”

This report from Greenpeace warns that “the world is quickly reaching a Point of No Return for preventing the worst impacts of climate change. The fossil fuel industry is planning 14 massive coal, oil and gas projects that would produce as much new carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in 2020 as the entire US. Continuing on the current course will make it difficult, if not impossible, to prevent the widespread and catastrophic impacts of climate change”.

The report also points out that the increase in the average global temperature can be kept below 2°C if actions are taken now to reduce emissions.

Limiting global warming below 2°C – or even to below 1.5°C remains technically and economically feasible, but only with political ambition backed by rapid action starting now. If nothing more is done except the current pledges, costs would be much higher to reach deeper reductions necessary later, and/or the damage from climate impacts would be far greater. Society also would lose the ability to choose whether it wants technologies like carbon capture and storage and nuclear energy, because those, along with bio-energy, would likely have to be deployed on a larger scale.

This update provides an analysis of policies in place to meet pledges for China, the USA, EU, Russia, India, Brazil, Indonesia, Japan, Mexico, Canada, South Korea, Australia and South Africa. We assessed the results from this analysis in the context of the ambition level of the pledges made by these countries.

Response to Cathles et al (above report).  “In April 2011, we published the first comprehensive analysis of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from shale gas obtained by hydraulic fracturing, with a focus on methane emissions. Our analysis was challenged by Cathles et al. (2012). Here, we respond to those criticisms. We stand by our approach and findings. The latest EPA estimate for methane emissions from shale gas falls within the range of our estimates but not those of Cathles et al. which are substantially lower.”  (Howarth et al)

Cathles does not accept figures used by Howarth et al and reiterates his conclusion that “substituting natural gas for coal will have a substantial greenhouse benefit under almost any set of reasonable assumptions”.

Cathles’ study cited a 2011 Environmental Protection Agency inventory report that he said indicated a much lower rate of leakage for wells.  Cathles attributed this distinction to the fact that newer wells were being constructed with a process he called “green completion,” which would allow them to operate without venting or flaring methane. He cited an analysis of 1,578 shale gas wells by URS Engineering that found only 6.5 percent of wells were not constructed with this environmentally-friendly mechanism.


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