Colorado’s long-awaited and newly released 380-page report on the health effects of oil and gas operations confirmed what many Colorado residents who live near the sites have suspected for years: State public health researchers found that emissions near drilling and hydraulic fracturing sites can cause negative health effects.
The science is complicated, though, as are the unfolding responses from state regulators and oil and gas companies.
The researchers used emissions data collected from Colorado oil and gas operations to model possible exposures to chemicals released by the hydraulic fracturing process. That model predicts how pollutants move through the air to estimate exposure at different distances, up to 2,000 ft, from a well pad and how that could affect human health.
The 2,000-ft figure is politically important because current state regulations prohibit oil and gas facilities from being closer than 500 ft from homes and 1,000 ft from schools, health care centers, and other high-occupancy buildings. In 2018, voters said no to a ballot measure that would have pushed oil and gas wells 2,500 ft away from homes.
The study looks at the potential exposure to chemicals directly produced by oil and gas operations. It estimates the exposure to 47 volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
The model looks at the worst-case scenario, which represents the highest exposure to chemicals that could reasonably be expected from a single well pad during various phases of oil and gas development, combined with certain weather conditions.
Researched focused on when wells see peak emissions in the preproduction phase, which can include drilling, completion, fracturing, and flowback. This study doesn’t address wells already in production.
There may be a risk of negative health effcts such as headaches, dizziness, and respiratory issues from short-term exposures to the chemicals released from the extraction process during worst-case conditions. The symptoms are consistent with what’s reported to the state’s health line.
The study found the risk of short-term health effects were largely from exposure to benzene, toluene, and ethyltoluenes. Those are VOCs that are released during oil and gas development.
Read the full story here.
Read the study here (PDF).
Don't miss our latest HSE content, delivered to your inbox twice monthly. Sign up for the HSE Now newsletter. If you are not logged in, you will receive a confirmation email that you will need to click on to confirm you want to receive the newsletter.
3 Dec 2019
- Cairo, Egypt
Enhance your understanding of process safety techniques by reserving a place at this 1-day training course
20 - 22 Jul 2020
- Austin, Texas, USA
Take the lead - speak at URTeC 2020
19 - 20 Feb 2020
- Lafayette, Louisiana, USA
Covering issues related to the identification, prevention, and remediation of formation damage
3 - 4 Dec 2019
- Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Strategic Partnerships for a Sustainable Future
13 - 15 Jan 2020
- Dhahran, Saudi Arabia
Plan to participate at this unique event
20 - 22 Oct 2020
- Perth, Australia
Abstract Submission deadline 13 January 2020
29 Jan 2020 22:30 GMT
- Live, then On Demand
HSE Now is a source for news and technical information affecting the health, safety, security, environment, and social responsibility discipline of the upstream oil and gas industry.
©2003-2019 Society of Petroleum Engineers, All Rights Reserved.