Research Spotlight: Clearing the air

Oil derrickThe first comprehensive analysis of air emissions associated with natural gas and oil production in the Barnett Shale area finds that emissions can be a significant contributor to Dallas-Fort Worth smog formation, comparable to the combined emissions from all Metroplex cars and trucks.

“Emissions from Natural Gas Production in the Barnett Shale Area and Opportunities for Cost-Effective Improvements,” was written by Al Armendariz, research associate professor in the Department of Environmental and Civil Engineering in SMU’s Lyle School of Engineering. The report is available online at the Environmental Defense Fund’s website (PDF format).

In addition to emissions of smog-forming compounds, such as nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds (VOC), the report also considers air toxic chemicals and greenhouse gases. Emissions of carbon dioxide and two other major greenhouse gases underlying climate change were estimated to be roughly equivalent to the impact from two 750 MW coal-fired power plants.

“It’s true that Barnett Shale oil and gas activities are producing significant air emissions, but there’s good news as well,” Armendariz said. “There are off-the-shelf technologies that can greatly reduce these emissions and improve DFW Metroplex air quality.” Cost-effective control strategies are readily available and can substantially reduce emissions, according to experts.

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