DENVER – The Air Quality Control Commission today received a report from the three-year North Front Range Oil and Gas Air Pollutant Emission and Dispersion Study conducted by Colorado State University. Data from the study – and a similar Garfield County study completed in June 2016 – will be used in a health-risk assessment to be completed by summer 2018.
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment will coordinate the health-risk assessment using the data from this study and is contracting the work to a third party consulting company. The department is soliciting formal proposals for the assessment and expects to have a contract in place by December.
Jeffrey Collett, professor and head of CSU’s Department of Atmospheric Science, was the principal investigator for the North Front Range study. The study was designed to quantify emissions from three specific oil and gas development activities:
- Hydraulic fracturing or “fracking”
- Flowback (of liquids after fracking)
- Production operations
CSU researchers conducted 18 experiments to quantify air emission rates and dispersion of air toxics, ozone precursors and greenhouse gases from each of the three processes.
Overall, production emissions (which may continue for many years) were found to be lower than the shorter-term fracking and flowback emissions, which last for a few days to a few weeks. Emissions in the North Front Range were slightly lower than in Garfield County, but contained heavier-weight organic compounds, likely due to differences in the geology between the basins.
Data from these two studies represent one of the most comprehensive assessments of air toxics, ozone precursors and greenhouse gas emission rates from oil and natural gas well operations to date.
Dr. Larry Wolk, the department’s executive director and chief medical officer, said, “These studies will provide us with critical information to design a detailed and accurate health risk assessment so we can answer questions related to potential health concerns related to oil and gas operations.”
The Front Range study was funded by the state. The presentation and report are available at CDPHE’s Technical Services Program web page.
For more information:
Denver Business Journal: Groundbreaking CSU study of oil and gas wells offers new pollution insight