Thursday, May 3, 2012

Shale Boom leads to Increased Air Pollution

Billions of dollars worth of natural gas is wasted each year, says the World Banks’ Global Gas Flaring Reduction Partnership. Gas that could otherwise be used to heat homes, cook food or fuel local economies is instead going up in smoke – burned or flared at oil fields across the world. That flaring produces some 400 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions each year.

Now, preliminary data from World Bank shows that the shale energy boom is fueling a rise in the burning of waste gas. Around the world, gas flaring crept up by 4.5 percent in 2011 – an amount “equivalent to the annual gas use of Denmark” according to a Reuter’s report published yesterday. The World Bank report is due out at the end of the month.

The data indicate that this increase is mostly due to the rise in shale oil exploration in North Dakota, an increase that pushed the US into the top ten gas flaring countries.

Flaring is used to eliminate gas at exploration sites and to test production of the well. The problem is that flaring gas releases a large number of pollutants into the air, including chemicals used to frack the well. In addition to the methane, flaring adds another five dozen chemicals into the air, including: acetalhyde, acrolein, benzene, ethyl benzene, formaldehyde, hexane, naphthalene, propylene, toluene, and xylenes.

Flaring is permitted, but companies could use “greener” technologies that would not only keep these chemicals out of the air but would save money (a savings of $9 for every $1 spent on these technologies according to Deborah Rogers). One tiny detail: these cleaner technologies usually require a gas pipeline to be in place first.

A 2009 report on green completions from SMU explains that companies could capture up to 70% capture of formerly released gases with green completions.

1 comment:

  1. I stumbled across an article online that gives some insight from the EPA regarding shale drilling and air pollution. If you are interested in reading further here is the link