Fracking traffic: increase in noise and NOx pollution

A new study published in March 2016 entitled, ‘Investigating the traffic-related environmental impacts of hydraulic-fracturing (fracking) operations’, has concluded that fracking related traffic may increase local noise and air pollution.

In particular, the study highlights that during peak hours of operation, fracking traffic can:

  • Lead to a 30% increase of NOx emmissions.
  • A single well pad can significantly increase levels of pollutants.
  • Increase noise pollution during night time hours.
  • Multiple pads operating can lead to a compounded effect in a localised area.

The paper discusses that despite the fact that fracking traffic increases may appear to be short, relative to the life time of the overall project, they can likely lead to sharp increases of pollutants and noise in the local area of operation:

“…examination of maximal results for phases with high traffic demand, even though the duration of those phases may be short, show substantial increases over the baseline, potentially leading to pollution exceedance events and breaches of local air quality standards, or increased annoyance and sleep disturbance in relation to noise.”

The above shows teh 5 phases to teh life time fo a fracking well. These phases were taken into consideration for modelling teh environmental impacts of fracking trucks. (image source: sciencedirect.com)
The above shows the 5 phases to the life time of a fracking well. These phases were taken into consideration for modelling the environmental impacts of fracking trucks. (image source: sciencedirect.com)

The paper points out that a solution that could mitigate the negative effects of fracking traffic, would be the implementation of pipelines that could transport water and chemicals instead:

“…fracking activities in the UK may be more able to follow existing onshore oil and gas exploration practice with water supply by pipeline, thus reducing reliance on road tanker transport.”

Furthermore, the paper states that by the mid 2020’s, there may be a reduction of traffic related NOx pollutants due to improvements of standards and regulations (EURO V and VI standards). The paper concedes that there is no real life data to back up the assumption and that the subject remains an area of active research as:

“It is anticipated and understood that NOx emissions rates will need to be updated as more knowledge on the real-world performance of EURO V HDVs, but especially EURO VI vehicles come to light. Performance of EURO V HDVs using de-NOxcatalysts (SCR), in conjunction with particle traps, has not lived up to initial promise.”

In conclusion, the paper states:

“Exploratory analyses using the model have revealed that the traffic impact of a single well pad can create substantial increases in local air quality pollutants during key activity periods, primarily involving the delivery of water and materials for fracking to the site. Modelling of NOx emissions showed increases reaching 30% over non-fracking periods and noise levels doubling (+ 3.4 dBA), dependent on access policy implemented to the site, potentially exacerbating existing environmental issues.”

In relation to County Fermanagh, it would be important for citizens to ask:

  • Would we prefer pipelines to trucks for transportation of fluids and would pipelines eradicated the need for fracking trucks?
  • How much of a detrimental effect would a 30% increase during peak hours affect the quality of our air, and the health of locals?
  • Will we see fracking trucks that can reduce NOx levels, despite the fact that there is no real life data to support the idea, in the face of the fact that particle traps (that capture NOx particles) have been shown not to work as effectively as promised?
  • How much of a nuisance will noise pollution actually be to our sleeping patterns?

Stay connected with the Fermanagh Fracking Awareness Network (FFAN) viaFacebook, twitter. Furthermore, you can view our blogs pictorially on Pinterest.

Can fracking damage fermanagh roads?

A 2014 study published in Journal of Infrastructure Systems, Estimating the Consumptive Use Costs of Shale Natural Gas Extraction on Pennsylvania Roadways,” investigates the damage that the overall process of High Volume Hydraulic fracturing can bring to road structures.

The RAND Corporation and Carnegie Mellon University, who conducted the report, analysed the design life and reconstruction cost of roadways in the Marcellus Shale formation in Pennsylvania.

They found that local municipal roads are generally designed to support passenger vehicles, not heavy trucks, and that “the useful life of a roadway is directly related to the frequency and weight of truck traffic using the roadway.”

With fracking comes and increase in heavy trucks on roads designed for smaller vehicles. Over time, teh quality of roads will increase at a faster rate. Who will pay for the upkeep of municipal roads? (image source: inthesetimes.com)
With fracking comes and increase in heavy trucks on roads designed for smaller vehicles. Over time, the quality of roads will increase at a faster rate. Who will pay for the upkeep of municipal roads? (image source: inthesetimes.com)

As a result, the study found that an increase in heavy road traffic, a characteristic feature of HVHF (due to transporting heavy materials and high volumes of fluids) will lead to an increase of road damage. And as a result, this can lead to an economic increase in the costs of road maintenance.

The study’s findings include:

  • Heavier vehicles cause exponentially greater roadway damage: A single axle with a 3,000-pounds load has a load equivalency factor (LEF) of 0.0011; for an 18,000-pound load, the LEF is 1.0; and for 30,000 pounds, it’s 8.28. “This means that 18,000-pound and 30,000-pound single-axle … do about 900 times and 7,500 times more damage than a 3,000-pound single axle pass, respectively.”
  • The estimated road-reconstruction costs associated with a single horizontal well range from $13,000 to $23,000. However, Pennsylvania often negotiates with drilling companies to rebuild smaller roads that are visibly damaged, so the researchers’ conservative estimate of uncompensated roadway damage is $5,000 and $10,000 per well.
  • While the per-well figure of $5,000-$10,000 appears small, the increasingly large number of wells being drilled means that substantial costs fall on the state: “Because there were more than 1,700 horizontal wells drilled [in Pennsylvania] in 2011, the statewide range of consumptive road costs for that year was between $8.5 and $39 million,” costs paid by state transportation authorities, and thus taxpayers.

This report should allow local residents to question the hidden, often overlooked cost of allowing the process of High Volume Hydraulic Fracturing within county Fermanagh and beyond. Who will pay for the maintenance of local roads? Should the responsibility be left to local residents, or the local fracking company? If we were to leave the responsibility to the fracking company, can we ensure that they will pay for the damage of their practice? Leave your comments below.

Stay connected with the Fermanagh Fracking Awareness Network (FFAN) viaFacebook, twitter. Furthermore, you can view our blogs pictorially on Pinterest.

Study: increased fracking traffic, increased pollution

As reported by national newspaper, The Guardian, an academic study has revealed that increased fracking traffic could lead to an increase of air pollution. The new study, published by Newcastle University was published in the Environmental International Journal on Wednesday 24th February 2016.

A test drilling site for shale gas on the outskirts of Southport, Lancashire. (image source: Alamy)
A test drilling site for shale gas on the outskirts of Southport, Lancashire. (image source: Alamy)

The research found that the vast number of trucks required to transport water to and from unconventional shale gas extraction (USGE) sites number in the thousands. With that volume of vehicles, comes an increased volume of the toxic gas, Nitrous Oxide, otherwise known as NOX.

The study found that increases in NOX were estimated to be around 30% increase against the baseline at the busiest periods of traffic.

The study created a mathematical traffic model for a hypothetical six well site over an 85-week period. They found NOx emissions increased 6% over the course of the period, or between 18-30% for hourly NOx readings at the most intense periods of activity.

“The traffic impact of a single well pad can create substantial increases in local air quality pollutants during key activity periods,” the study said.

The study also supported long held warnings that fracking traffic will increase road damage and increase noise pollution in affected areas.

To read the article in full, click here.

Concerned health professionals of New York release fracking compendium

The Concerned Health Professionals of New York just released a compendium that compiles a significant body of scientific, medical and journalistic findings that highlight the experienced health risks associated with the process of Unconventional Shale Gas Extraction.

CHPNY

One of the most thorough reports of its kind, the compendium draws upon scientific evidence and experience from across the globe, including USA, Canada and Australia, where Unconventional Shale Gas Extraction has been most predominant, drawing upon information provided by medical journals such as The Lancet, the British Medical Journal and the Medical Journal of Australia.

Topics covered by the compendium include:

  • Air Contamination
  • Water Contamination
  • Engineering Problems
  • Radioactive releases
  • Occupational Health and Safety Hazards
  • Noise pollution, light pollution and stress
  • Earthquakes and Seismic Activity
  • Abandoned wells
  • Flood risks
  • Threats to Agriculture and soil quality
  • Threats to the Climate
  • Inaccurate job claims, increased crime
  • Inflated oil and gas reserves
  • Medical and scientific calls for more study

A compilation of studies and findings from around the globe, the compendium provides irrefutable evidence of the risks, harms, and associated negative trends demonstrated by the process of Unconventional Shale Gas Extraction, a process earmarked for County Fermanagh.

To read the compendium in full, click here.

‘Lancet’ medical journal raises detrimental health implications of fracking

One of the world’s oldest and best known peer-reviewed medical journal, The Lancet, released a paper highlighting the realised risks that unconventional shale gas extraction poses to public human health.

lancet

The Lancet states that despite scientific study of the health effects of fracking being in its infancy, “findings suggest that this form of extraction might increase health risks compared with conventional oil and gas extraction [due to] larger surface footprints of fracking sites; their close proximity to locations where people live, work and play; and the need to transport and store large volumes of materials.”

The article further states that investigation into unconventional shale gas extraction in the USA has shown that, “risks of environmental contamination occur at all stages in the development of shale gas extraction.”

Problems with the structural integrity of the process, which is planned for county Fermanagh include: failure of well cement and casing, surface spills and leakage from above ground storage, gas emissions from gas processing equipment, and the large number of transport vehicles involved with transporting large volumes of chemicals.

The article draws attention and concern to detrimental health effects locally and globally. Locally, environmental contaminants such as volatile organic compounds, tropospheric ozone, diesel particulate matter, benzene, hydrocarbons, endocrine disrupting chemicals and heavy metals.

Source: aljazeera.com
The practice of unconventional shale gas extraction, otherwise known as fracking, has drawn criticism as a result of the negative impacts on human health and the environment. (Image source: aljazeera.com)

Globally, environmental threats to public health is the “contribution of shale gas extraction to green house gas emissions, and thus, climate change.”

In conclusion, the Lancet have recommended the implementation of Health Impact Assessments (HIA) that take into consideration not only public health risks during development of unconventional shale gas extraction, but the legacy left for public health over the long term also.

If you wish to read the peer reviewed article titled, “The health implications of fracking”, click here.

Keiser Report: Proposed trespass laws allow drilling under private land without permission

keiser

On the 8th of April 2014, Russia Today‘s ‘Keiser Report’ takes a look at proposed law changes that will allow fracking companies to drill and frack under private property without seeking permission and in exchange for 100 pounds.
Also given consideration is the fact that the energy input for unconventional shale gas extraction is higher than the energy output, resulting in an energy negative process, which increases national debt.

You may view the full article here.

Tyndall updated report

John Tyndall, the great (Irish born) 19th century physicist

The updated Tyndall Centre report on the environmental and climate change impacts of shale gas extraction has recently been released, and makes for sobering reading (which is why we’ve added a picture of Prof. Tyndall’s whiskers to cheer you up).  The key conclusions of the report are as follows:

1.There is little to suggest that shale gas will play a key role as a transition fuel in the move to a low carbon economy. … At the global level, against a backdrop of energy growth matching, if not outstripping, that of global GDP and where there is currently no carbon constraint, the exploitation of shale gas will most likely lead to increased energy use and increased emissions resulting in an even greater chance of dangerous climate change.

2. UK Government commitments on climate change require major investment in zero and very low carbon technologies; this is likely to be delayed significantly by the exploitation of shale gas.

3. Without a meaningful cap on global carbon emissions, the exploitation of shale gas is likely to increase total emissions. … (I)n this energy-hungry world, with GDP growth dominating political agendas and no effective and stringent constraint on total global carbon emissions, the exploitation of an additional fossil fuel resource will likely feed increased energy use and an associated rise in emissions.

4. Evidence from the US suggests shale gas extraction brings a significant risk of groundwater and surface water contamination and until the evidence base is developed a precautionary approach to development in the UK and EU is recommended… An analysis of substances that have been used in the US suggests a significant number with toxic, carcinogenic, radiological or other hazardous properties.

5. Requirements for water in commercial scale shale gas extraction could put pressure on water supplies at the local level in the UK. Shale gas extraction requires high volumes of water. Given that water resources in many parts of the UK are already under pressure, this water demand could bring significant and additional problems at the local level. Conversely volumes of contaminated wastewater returning from wells will require careful disposal.

6. Exploiting shale gas within the UK is likely to give rise to a range of additional challenges. The UK is densely populated and consequently wells associated with commercial scale shale gas extraction will be relatively close to population centres. The proximity of such extraction will give rise to a range of local concerns for instance, high levels of truck movements on already busy roads and the potential for seismic disturbances, that require meaningful engagement, assessment, regulation and enforcement.

The full report, together with the Tyndall Centre’s earlier report from January 2011, is available on our Documents page.

How many roads …

… will be recognisable in West Fermanagh, if hydraulic fracturing gets underway?

The fracking would take place through wells drilled on ‘wellpads’, industrial sites constructed throughout what are now rural woods and fields. Let’s look at a single wellpad, the smallest type which could be used,  containing just eight wells. (The licensee, Tamboran Resources, say that they anticipate using a design which could accommodate sixteen or more.) We are assuming a twenty ton lorry as this is about the biggest that will fit on our rural Fermanagh roads.

1. Construction of pad base.
According to Tamboran (see above) an eight well pad occupies approximately six acres = 0.024 square kilometres. This will require a base of aggregate and concrete.
Using a half metre depth of aggregate: 20000 msq x .5 = 10,000 cubic metres of aggregate will be required.
A ton of dry gravel is approx 0.6 cubic metres so each pad base would require 16600 tons or 830 one-way lorry journeys.
Using a 15cm (6 inch) depth of concrete: 0.02 square km x .15m = 3000 cubic metres of concrete will be required.
One cubic metre of concrete weighs around 2.3 tons so each pad base would require 6900 tons or 345 one-way lorry journeys.

2. Sand (used for hydraulic fracturing)
Each well will require around 2500 tons of sand so eight wells will need 20,000 tons or 1000 one-way lorry journeys.

3. Water (used for hydraulic fracturing)
Tamboran say the large 50 x 50 metre water pond on the wellpad will provide eighty percent of the water needed for one well frack*. They anticipate that the pond will be 6metres deep, but kept at around five metres full to avoid any overflow.
This accounts for 50x50x5m = 12500 cubic metres of water.
If this is 80% of the amount required to frack a single well then the total needed must be around 15625 cubic metres or 4.13 million US gallons .
So 8(wells) x 4.13(million gallons/well) x.2 (20 percent not obtained from pond) = 6.6 million gallons of water which will have to be brought to the wellpad.
A tanker lorry weighing 20 tons holds 4800 US gallons.
6.6million gallons divided by 4800(each tanker’s load) = 1376 one-way lorry trips of water (and considerably more, if less water is available via the pond).

*The idea that so much water can practically or safely be diverted from the natural water cycle into these ponds is widely disputed.

4. Waste water (brought back up from the well, contaminated with salt and other substances)
Let’s use 25% as the amount that is likely to flow back to the surface  (this is a conservative estimate). This waste has to be transported somewhere. Given the shallowness of the shale, it is unlikely to be injected back underground, and to treat it on site would be extremely difficult (and require the use of considerable quantities of chemicals).
8 wells x 4.13million(gallons of water per well) x25% = 8.25million US gallons of waste water per pad.
Divided by 4800 (capacity of tanker) this gives 1718 one-way lorry loads of waste water.

5. Other.
Ancillary construction traffic (e.g. to make roads, move equipment etc.) will require at least 100 lorry journeys (and more if, as seems likely, forestry land will be used, so needing tree clearance and excavation / flattening of site). There will also be other smaller vehicular traffic.

Summary
Aggregate : 830
Concrete : 345
Sand : 1000
Water : 1376
Waste : 1718
Ancillary: 100

Total : 5339 x 20 ton one-way lorry journeys per pad.

Tamboran state that “as many as 10 wellpads could be being constructed each year about seven years from now” (on website, as above).
That means 5339 x 10 = 53,390 one-way journeys per year, or well over a thousand every week. Of course, these are one-way journeys and the lorries will have to go back again, so the number can probably be doubled.

Two thousand twenty-ton lorries driving along our narrow rural roads and through our villages and townlands every week. Just take a moment to imagine that.

According to Tamboran’s website, they hope to build around a hundred wellpads, and to add eight or sixteen more wells to each. That means at least this level of heavy goods traffic, and very likely much more, for many, many years. And each wellpad, Tamboran proudly say, “could be required for the full 65 years”.

If you’re old enough, or uncool enough, you probably remember John Denver’s Country Roads:

Almost heaven, West Virginia
Blue Ridge Mountains, Shenandoah river
Life is old there, older than the trees
Younger than the mountains, blowin’ like a breeze.

They’ve had fracking in West Virginia for a while now, recently implicated in the major East coast earthquake and a toxic algae bloom that wiped out thousands of fish along 35 miles of the Dunkard creek.

And one thing is certain, the roads aren’t much like heaven any more.

(Thanks to Tom White for all statistics and calculations)