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?

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