Full Title: Hydraulic Fracturing and Shale Gas Production: Technology, Impacts, and Policy
Author(s): Corrie Clark, Andrew Burnham, Christopher Harto, and Robert Horner
Publisher(s): Argonne National Laboratory
Publication Date: 9/2012



Shale gas production represents a large, new potential source of natural gas for the nation. Development of this resource is,
however, not without risks to natural resources. Potential impacts include the following:

  • Greenhouse gas emissions during completion and production activities,
  • Air emissions that affect local air quality during completion and production activities,
  • Water withdrawals for hydraulic fracturing,
  • Induced seismicity from improper management of flowback water,
  • Water quality impacts to surface water or aquifer from faulty well design and construction or improper flowback water
  • management, and
  • Additional community impacts including noise and light pollution.

Improved science-based assessments of these risks are underway, but early results indicate that the risks can be managed and
lowered through existing practices including the following:

  • RECs that limit VOC, HAP, and CH4 emissions and reduce flaring,
  • Engineering controls and appropriate personal protective equipment to reduce worker exposure to crystalline silica,
  • Reusing flowback water to limit fresh water withdrawal requirements and reduce water management burdens,
  • Drilling of multiple wells from a single well pad to reduce the footprint of operations,
  • Proper siting, design, and construction of gas production and fluid disposal wells, and
  • Groundwater quality monitoring coupled with fracturing fluid chemical disclosures.

With adequate safeguards in place, shale gas can be exploited responsibly in ways that protect both the environment and
human health.