Exploration and Production Technologies
 
Measurements and Modeling to Quantify Emissions of Methane and VOCs from Shale Gas Operations Last Reviewed 11/20/2013

DE-FE0014055

Goal
The goals of this project are to determine the leakage rates of methane and ozone-forming volatile organic carbons (VOCs) and the emission rates of air toxics from Marcellus shale gas activities at a process level. Methane emissions in the Marcellus Shale region shall be differentiated between “newer” sources associated with shale gas development and “older” sources associated with coal or conventional natural gas exploration.

Performer
Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA 15213

Background
The extensive development of shale gas exploration and production in the Marcellus region has caused concern about potential environmental impacts on water resources, land, and the atmosphere. The overall impacts from shale gas development have not been extensively characterized, including the nature and magnitude of the following pollutant emissions:

  • Fugitive releases such as methane and/or VOC leaks at the well head, compressor stations, or gas processing facilities
  • Emissions associated with support equipment such as drilling rigs or diesel trucks that service gas wells
  • Emissions associated with active venting or well completion
  • Discharges or migration of process water used in hydraulic fracturing
  • Evaporation of additives used in hydraulic fracturing fluid from holding ponds

Emission and leak rates of methane and other gases from shale gas activities are in many cases estimated rather than directly measured. Quantifying the magnitude of these emissions and understanding their sources at a process level is important to ensure industrial compliance with regulatory agencies, promote public health, and improve public understanding of the risks associated with the shale gas industry. The magnitude of methane emissions from Marcellus shale gas operations should be compared to other possible sources of fugitive methane such as landfills, agricultural sources, abandoned coal mines, and gas wells. Quantifying the methane emissions from other regional sources will aid in understanding the net influence of shale gas operations on methane emissions.

Impact
The project will directly address uncertainties in the emissions of methane and other VOCs from shale gas operations. Analysis of direct emission rates will improve overall understanding of the air quality impacts of shale gas development. The analyses of methane, VOCs, and other air toxics will improve the characterization of air emissions across the spectrum of technologies and processes used in the Marcellus Shale region. Project results will help determine how fugitive emissions vary based on different technologies (i.e., “green” versus standard well completions) and if emissions vary with the age of the facility. The project will therefore provide a dataset of emission rates for use in life cycle analyses, chemical transport models, and policy decision-making.

Accomplishments
The project was awarded on October 1, 2013

Current Status (November 2013)
Researchers will contact industry partners to identify specific unit operations at different stages of shale gas development and arrange for on-site access for conducting direct measurements of methane emissions and tracer release experiments. A literature search of published emission rates of methane, ozone-forming VOCs, and air toxics from oil and gas activities will be started and include public data submitted to the Environmental Protection Agency or state agencies for regulatory purposes, and the resulting data will be published in the scientific literature. Methane and VOC emissions data will be obtained from industry partners.

Project Start: 10/01/2013
Project End: 09/30/2016

DOE Contribution: $1,001,990
Performer Contribution: $250,498

Contact Information:
NETL – Sandy McSurdy (sandra.mcsurdy@netl.doe.gov or 412-386-4533)
CMU – Albert Presto (apresto@andrew.cmu.edu or 412-721-5203)

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