GEH1205:        Outdoor Air Quality Impacts at Hydraulic Fracturing (“Fracking”) Sites in Fort Worth


Speaker:          John Wilhelmi, MS


Many media accounts and advertisements tout the benefits of domestic natural gas production activity and the recent advances in drilling technology. But, what does "fracking" mean for the air that we breathe? After attending this session, you will be able to identify the categories of air pollutants typically emitted from well pads and compressor stations. You will also be able to identify at least three different types of emission sources found at well pads so that you can determine the air quality in your community from these activities.




Natural gas production has been increasing in recent years across the United States, in part due to advances in drilling and extraction technology. One such technology, hydraulic fracturing—or “fracking”—is being extensively used in the Barnett Shale region in north central Texas, and more than 400 active natural gas production sites are located within the City of Fort Worth. To address concerns about air quality impacts, the City sponsored the Fort Worth Natural Gas Air Quality Study to characterize how natural gas production activities affect outdoor air quality and to evaluate whether the minimum setback provisions for these sites are adequately protective to nearby residents.


This presentation will review the main findings from this study, in which two approaches were taken to characterize air quality impacts. First, ambient air monitoring occurred at eight locations throughout the City over a 2-month period in late 2010, with one-in-three day sampling for nearly 140 pollutants. Second, emissions were measured at, or estimated for, nearly 400 different natural gas production and processing sites between 2010 and 2011. The emission rates were then entered into a dispersion model to estimate air quality impacts at locations where, and times when, ambient air monitoring did not occur.


The study identified three pollutants—benzene, formaldehyde, and acrolein—as being most important from a risk perspective, but did not find any significant health threats associated with air quality beyond the City’s setback distances. Several recommendations were provided for further study of outdoor air quality impacts and to reduce emissions from the gas production sites found throughout the City.