CDPHE plans oil and gas health risk assessment based on air quality study

The “mobile plume tracker” that CSU scientists used to measure air emissions from oil and gas operations. [Source: Colorado State University]

The “mobile plume tracker” that CSU scientists used to measure air emissions from oil and gas operations. [Source: Colorado State University]

PRESS RELEASE

PRESS RELEASE

New data to be used to assess health risks from oil and gas operations

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 JournalGroundbreaking CSU study of oil and gas wells offers new pollution insight

New report:  North Front Range Oil and Gas Air Pollutant Emission and Dispersion Study

Garfield County study:  Characterizing Air Emissions from Natural Gas Drilling and Well Completion Operations in Garfield County, CO

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One Comment on “CDPHE plans oil and gas health risk assessment based on air quality study”

  1. Bob Arrington Says:

    At each and every opportunity I called Collett out on his choice of acetylene as comparison gas as it can be used in operations on a pad. It can be generated by carbide pellets in water. Gas companies knew and had to cooperate with any measuring he did and controlled the where’s and when’s he tested. They also knew and heard my concerns about acetylene. Now, golly be darned, if you don’t want somebody to measure high emissions all you have to do is release some acetylene of your own or put out some carbide for the morning dew and the proportion of detected emissions goes down compared to the amount of acetylene present. Collett could have used unique comparison gases, as EPA does, without the gas companies knowing what was being used. Collett didn’t and the data he collected is bogus or lacking integrity. You can assume his numbers are relatively low or there wouldn’t be the hots to extrapolate his limited data (and it was limited). I haven’t heard whether his data collection was peer reviewed, but as a professional, I would ask the question why didn’t he use unique comparison gases when you know any company being tested would want the best possible results. And my assessment would be that data integrity was not safeguarded from tampering and sampling was too low and limited in participants. BTW, I was an original stakeholder in the preparation for this data collection effort.

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