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Fracking-related air tests reveal surprising results

Air tests of five Barnett Shale wells being hydraulically fractured showed no harmful emissions, according to a study conducted by Modern Geosciences.

The study, which was released today by the Barnett Shale Energy Education Council, took a look at five Barnett Shale gas wells in Mansfield, Texas during both hydraulic fracturing and flowback activities. The air studies in Mansfield were requested by the operator of the wells, Beacon E&P, a Colorado-based company that has offices in Fort Worth and operations in the Barnett Shale region in North Texas.

The first air tests occurred while two frac crews were hydraulically fracturing five natural gas wells between November 20, 2014 and December 1, 2014. The second round of tests were conducted during initial same flowback operations of the five wells between December 17, 2014 and December 23, 2014. Monitoring of the tests included an evaluation of volatile organic compounds, suspended particulate matter, and methane.

Related: Study finds simple remedies for some methane emissions

During the hydraulic fracturing process, Modern Geosciences noted the following results:

Concentrations of benzene, toluene, and p‐xylene were noted above the equipment detection limits. Other VOCs were identified and estimated as concentrations below the lowest calibration level. Detectable concentrations of TSP (total suspended solids) were noted during the monitoring events. The highest TSP was noted near the background sample point during traffic conditions. The highest tVOCs result was noted downwind of the padsite within the 600’ radius. The highest methane concentrations were noted upwind crosswind of the pad site.

During the initial flowback period process, Modern Geosciences noted the following results:

Detectable concentrations of methane (up to 1 ppmv) were noted during the monitoring events.  The highest methane concentrations were noted downwind and crosswind of the pad site, as well as at the background point. Discrete air samples were collected from each of the three adjacent sampling points and the off‐site ambient location. Modern compared the sampling results to the lower of the AMCVST or ESLST criteria. Concentrations of various VOCs were noted above the equipment detection limits or identified at estimated concentrations below the lowest calibration level.

The results of the study come as the City of Mansfield is considering revisions to its drilling ordinance, with the first hearing scheduled for Monday, February 23. Mansfield currently requires a 600-foot setback, which research has shown to be more than protective of public health in the City of Fort Worth, where approximately 2,000 gas wells are located. The findings suggest that the city’s existing setback requirement is more than adequate to protect public health. The highest measured VOC emissions in the new Mansfield air study were located within 600 feet of the well pad site, although none of the emissions were above adverse health effects levels.

You can read more about the study by clicking here.

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