A new study by Houston Advanced Research Center HARC uses modeling to conclude that:
oil and gas activities can have significant near-source impacts on ambient ozone, through either regular emissions or flares and other emission events associated with process upsets, and perhaps also maintenance, startup, and shutdown of oil and gas facilities.
You might remember that HARC scientists found the high levels of formaldehyde hidden in the BSEEC & Titan Engineering Fort Worth air study. The formaldehyde levels were so high you can get a Brazilian Blow Out treatment just by driving through the Barnett Shale in a convertible (as long as you don’t mind nosebleeds).
The levels of formaldehyde in the Barnett Shale are the highest measured anywhere on the planet except in Brazil. In the Barnett Shale we also have reports of frequent nosebleeds
We don’t have much hope of ever meeting the EPA ozone standards at this rate.
See press release from Downwinders At Risk.
A few of the studies that associate health issues with air pollution:
UPDATE: Joe Camel weighed in to say that cigarette smoking never hurt anyone. For some reason, the Dallas Observer thought they should give Joe Camel a platform.
Joe Camel‘s Steve Everly seems to believe that Downwinders At Risk did the air modeling as a “fundraising” ploy. But Downwinders only did a press release about the study.
The modeling was a serious independent research project conducted by Houston Advanced Research Center HARC .
You can’t expect truth or facts from an advertising campaign. Nor can you sue them for libel when they make false accusations because that would be like suing Joe Camel or Mr. Whipple. They don’t exist as any kind of business entity.
About Sharon Wilson
Sharon Wilson is considered a leading citizen expert on the impacts of shale oil and gas extraction. She is the go-to person whether it’s top EPA officials from D.C., national and international news networks, or residents facing the shock of eminent domain and the devastating environmental effects of natural gas development in their backyards.
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Don Young says
Barnett Shale natural gas facilities “significantly” raise smog levels in DFW, affecting air quality far downwind:
Andy Mechling says
I will bathe in your ozone also. O3 simply isn’t the problem. Industry is not likely to have a major problem with the findings of this report.
Rather than attempt to model some quasi-toxic, and ubiquitous, atmospheric gas like ozone, I truly wish one of these groups would just one time attempt to actually measure deadly, neuro-toxic, flammable and highly explosive gases like carbonyl sulfide, carbon disulfide and hydrogen sulfide. – and actually produce something worthwhile.
Who wants to see modeled results for ozone anyway? I sure don’t. Ozone is relatively simple and inexpensive to measure in the atmosphere. Why not conduct science instead of just pretend? Why not use existing data?
Ozone is one of the very few Hazardous Air Pollutants for which we do have solid data. EPA tracks this one; all over Texas and all over the US. Ozone is classified as a “Criteria Pollutant” by EPA. Those data are readily available.
I never understood this group’s decision to focus on Formaldehyde in their review of the FWNGAQS either. Formaldehyde wasn’t the only nasty chemical identified through the FWNGAQS; and it definitely wasn’t the nastiest. Furthermore, the highest levels were found at the municipal dump, and not at the site nearest to the wellpads; yet they chose to focus on this compound anyway.
Please remember, of all 138 chems included in that study, CS2 is the only of these where elevated concentrations can be clearly associated with proximity to NG activities. AND CS2 was the only chemical measured over the TCEQ long term exposure guidelines in that study, (and in study after study) COS and H2S were ignored in the FWNGAQS, as per usual.
The HARC group chose to ignore a solid wall of CS2 in their review of the FWNGAQS; and instead, focused on some spotty formaldehyde results, that were not associated with proximity to the well pads. Sorry, but this is Bogus.
Now this same group wants to focus on ozone; but instead of using measured concentration data, they publish results of their own modeling. Excuse me while I yawn.
In order to reduce ozone levels, we will need to get some of these cars and trucks off the road, and clean up industrial emissions in general, especially those oxides of nitrogen. I think this is a worthwhile goal, of course.
In fact, I bet TCEQ and EPA and RRC will all be more than willing to discuss ozone, and about all the time they spend, and work they do trying to rein in these troublesome numbers. I think the regulators will welcome these discussions. They are tough on ozone. Ozone makes them feel so tough. And relevant.
At some point, I think the conversation needs to drift into those areas and those subjects where Industry and regulators are NOT so comfortable.
In terms of priorities, I believe that ambient air monitoring in the public interest needs to focus on those chemicals we know to be present, and that we believe to be the most hazardous.
That’s clearly not ozone; and it’s clearly not formaldehyde.
Am I making any sense?
To your last question Andy, my answer is NO!
I totally agree that someone needs to do thorough testing for sulfides. There also need to figure out why ethylene dibromide was detected over TCEQ limits numerous times in the Argyle-Bartonville community as well as other areas in Texas where fracking is happening. Somebody is supplying that chemical to frackers in Texas.
We know the deadly sulfides are a huge problem. But I don’t think that fact makes the formaldehyde detection less significant.
Looking at this map the formaldehyde was detected right on the drilling facility.
The SAD FACT is that only industry has the money to do the kind of extensive testing we need.
This near source produced ozone (O3), produced from compressor stations and gas processing plants, acts as an oxidant to many materials including copper. It turns copper a reddish color, must faster than would be produced from normal oxygen (O2) in our amabient air.
Yep. And we have a bunch of backyard experiments to prove it thanks to you!
Andy Mechling says
Should we conduct a study to determine which discolors copper faster – O3 or SO2? We could get a grant! We could publish a study!
Should we measure the other sulfur compounds also? Or will it be OK for us to assume that SO2 is acting alone here, and only monitor that one? (another essentially non-toxic “criteria pollutant”, routinely tracked by EPA)
In December of 2003, at least 243 Chinese villagers died as the result of a sour gas well that blew out during the drilling stage. The resulting toxic cloud killed nearly everything in its path. Fortunately, all of the oil workers on the drilling rig were evacuated to safety ahead of the plume.
Rescuers found the bodies of the stricken villagers interspersed with carcasses of wildlife, pets, and livestock. Only a few roosters survived the gassing; presumably by taking to the trees.
No air monitoring results were ever made public by the Chinese authorities. The best we can do is guess – as to what might have killed the innocent villagers of Goaqiao. Speculation has centered on the presence of H2S.
But maybe it was the ozone that got ’em! . . . or maybe it was SO2.
Did anyone think to check if copper goods in the affected villages were discoloring prematurely?
This could be key!
Our backyard science using copper rods that have been prepared so the coating is removed has accurately detected chemicals in the air during the frequent releases from natural gas facilities that turns the copper rods black, purple or reddish. We have done extensive testing with this method and it works consistently.
The copper rods do not turn colors in control testing in areas where there is no drilling.
Andy–normally available copper goods are coated with a material like shellac, or at least lightly oiled, to prevent corrosion, so they look “pretty” for a longer period of time. Or, if they have been exposed to ambient air for a long period of time, where the surface is oxidized, then exposure to things like O3 or H2S will not react with the copper oxide/s.
Andy Mechling says
I’m not at all sure what any of this is supposed to prove; and this is my criticism.
Interesting experiment, for sure. But what is the methodology here? How exactly are you using those rods? Which parameters are you claiming to be able to measure? How are these experiments controlled?
Sharon says “We have done extensive testing with this method and it works consistently”.
OK. I’m ready. This is the part where you get to explain and defend your methodology. What exactly are you claiming to be able to measure through this method?
Air science is like that. If one embarks on scientific endeavor, – unless one decides to keep it all secret – one needs to expect and welcome serious scrutiny from all directions, and especially from peers and colleagues. This is what we do, and it is a healthy part of the process.
A primitive test known as the “copper strip test” is still used widely in the natural gas pipeline industry, where H2s concentrations are tightly controlled. One acknowledged problem with this test is that carbonyl sulfide is not reactive, or not reactive enough, with copper.
Natural gas streams with significant concentrations of COS can and often do pass the copper strip test – and enter the marketplace. Any water at all in that pipeline can combine with COS to form H2S. Water becomes the enemy here, and methanol is widely and religiously used to mitigate its presence.
I think it is time to move beyond the primitive. I am fully in support of community-based air monitoring projects; and I am convinced that the next meaningful advances in applied air science will likely come from this arena.
The agencies long ago arrived at Stalemate. And here we all sit.
Science continues to move forward, and advances in monitoring technologies can only be ignored for so long. And it’s been so very long already.
I have recently forwarded to Sharon Wilson links to some of the specific monitoring technologies which I think would be appropriate for community based air toxics monitoring projects.
Obviously, my ideas about what types of devices, and methods, and projects might be appropriate conflict with the views of others posting to this site. I hope everyone is OK with that.
I understand the desire to go primitive on this one. I understand the allure of data on the cheap. I think this sort of project would be fine – except for one problem: You need better data; and there’s nowhere else to turn.
If you do decide to outfit yourselves with some serious gear; and if you do embark on a tightly controlled air monitoring project . . . expect some very real scrutiny at that time.
Some of this will be of the unfair and undeserved variety. When it comes; you will know you are headed in the right direction.
Thank you again, Sharon, for hosting this site and this discussion.
I am not going to post anything more specific about our testing.
In a perfect world, we would purchase the expensive equipment you suggest but in that perfect world there would be no need.
Those who live in the gas patch do not live in a perfect world. We live with the reality of daily dosing with toxins. We live with the reality that they only ones who can afford to do the type of testing you promote is the polluting industry.
We improvise. Some of us are scientists.