Shale Gas Development Environmental Issues: The Role of Professionalism
Charles G. “Chip” Groat
Director, Center for International Energy and Environmental Policy, Jackson School of Geosciences, University of Texas–Austin
The development of the vast shale gas resources in the United States has been accompanied by many public protestations about the environmental impacts of several aspects of the development process. These include ground water use and quality, air quality, earthquake generation, and landscape impacts such as land-use disruptions, noise, dust, and traffic.
The Energy Institute at the University of Texas–Austin conducted a multidisciplinary study of environmental claims and the degree to which they have been verified by regulatory and scientific investigations. The study focused on the Barnett, Haynesville, and Marcellus shale plays. The study found no evidence that hydraulic fracturing itself had caused ground water contamination in these areas, but did note mostly minor environmental effects of various types related to drilling, production, and waste-water handling and disposal.
A general observation was that the level of involvement by scientists and engineers in examining environmental issues was not as high as one might expect it to be. This doesn’t reflect a lack of professional interest in the topics, but has resulted in concerns not based on professional evaluations gaining significant traction in the media. Fortunately the trend is toward more science upon which to base decisions and regulatory response.
AAPG Search and Discovery Article #90158©2012 GCAGS and GC-SEPM 6nd Annual Convention, Austin, Texas, 21-24 October 2012