This should not be surprising. Where hydrocarbons are produced, you will find toxics. Benzene is only one of those. 


For Immediate Release

January 23, 2013

Contact: Calvin Tillman
Executive Director
Tel: 940-453-9340

Based on results of a recent air study, benzene is still elevated around natural gas production facilities in the Barnett Shale.

Barnett Shale– During the month of October 2012 members of the non-profit visited many sites throughout the Barnett Shale in North Texas.  These sites were viewed through a FLIR Gasfindir camera, which detects Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs). Many of these sites had visible emissions present and unfortunately many of these sites were close to communities, city parks, restaurants and other place where people congregate.  Former Mayor of DISH, TX and co-founder of says that “it is a shame that over the past several years we still have a problem with the oil and gas industry polluting the air of North Texas, it is time for the industry to step up and be the good neighbors they claim to be on the industry funded commercials”.

During this visits ambient air monitoring was performed using stainless steel summa canisters. Results of this monitoring show the presence of several chemicals including the well-known carcinogen benzene.  A Kinder Morgan gas processing facility located on Jim Baker Rd. west of DISH, TX showed elevated levels of benzene and toluene, as well as many other chemicals known to be present at facilities such as this. ShaleTest documented emissions at a similar facility near downtown Fort Worth on Nixon Street Operated by Chesapeake Energy.  The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality performed sampling that validated ShaleTest’s concerns, finding elevated levels of benzene and toluene at this facility. “Looking forward into 2013 we must make our health and environment a priority. It is unacceptable that the natural gas industries are ignoring the devastating impacts they have on citizens and the environment.” says Susan Sullivan, board member of ShaleTest.

ShaleTest is a non-profit organization that provides environmental testing for lower income families, and was performing this monitoring at the request of several citizens on the Barnett Shale.


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.


  1. Andy Mechling says

    I have no trouble believing that Shale Test encountered benzene near the NG operations. I have a harder time believing that these concentration measurements are actually higher than the surrounding urban area.
    I make this comment based largely – but not solely – on the information made public through last year’s Fort Worth NG AQ study performed by ERG. This is perhaps the most comprehensive study of urban air toxics ever performed.

    • says

      There are no safe levels of benzene. The natural gas process emits MANY toxic compounds that harm human health. Carbon disulfide is certainly one of the worst, imo, but it is not the only toxin of concern.

      • Andy Mechling says

        Yes, CS2 is only one of the toxins involved. Of course that is true. At some point though, in the interest of public health, we need to prioritize. Its 30 years later and we still have no priority list from EPA.
        It is also true that NG production, processing, and distribution represent only some of many known sources of cs2 exposures; which include oil refining, coal processing and burning, coal ash sludge impounds, landfills, CAFO operations, feedlots and swine lagoons, paper mills, asphalt plants; AND some of the worst pesticide accidents in history. Somehow we can’t talk about this. As a society, I mean.

  2. Andy Mechling says

    Benzene was detected in every sample from every site. The highest concentrations were recorded near the landfill; if I remember correctly. Site #5, tje site closest to the NG activity displayed the LOWEST ambient benzene, not just on average, but on every sample day, 20 days total. Sites 6 and 7, even closer to the NG (the “fenceline sites”) recorded lower benzene yet …..but I personally am ignoring those results as these were processed at a different lab…without any explanation by the study’s authors. ….my phone wont let me type more in this box.

  3. Andy Mechling says

    Of 138 chemicals emcountered during the ambient sampling phase of the FWNGAQS, carbon disulfide was the ONLY compound detected at elevated levels near the NG sites; and HOW! CS2 levels measured at site 5 were greater than the other 4 sites COMBINED; again, not just on average, but on every sampling day.
    Nobody but nobody has acknowledged these facts. The FWNGAQS was shamefully silent on the astonishing cs2 results.
    My first contact with any of you came a few years ago when I sent email to the mayor of DISH.

  4. Andy Mechling says

    In it, I laid out my case that benzene represented a red herring here; and that organic sulfur species, if present, should be a bigger concern – both for his young family and for his constituents. I feel precisely the same way today.
    I can only infer, from what I read today, that Shale Test did not emcounter any cs2 this time around. If this is true; it is good news.
    I hope at some point Shale Test will choose to conduct some sampling using equipment and labs designed for true sulfur gas analysis. Until then, and the more focus Shale Test puts on benzene…..the happier the oilies will be.

  5. Anonymous says

    This work by Shale Text is exelent in every aspect. I wonder what would happen if these excelent folks did some monitoring in Booger County Tx.

    • says

      They would love to test in Booger County. Money is the only obstacle. Too bad we don’t have 1/10th of the money the industry has.

  6. Andy Mechling says

    I encourage everyone to at least consider the results of ERGs FWNGAQs. The numbers for benzene were consistent and essentially linear. Please look.
    The farther away from the wellpads they got, the more benzene they measured. Ignore this if you like. That was one very serious air study.
    We know for sure that the sulfur compounds hug the ground all around the wellpads and compressors. Could these emissions “plumes” simply be displacing ambient benzene molecules; or reacting with them? I don’t think we know this for sure. I sure don’t.

  7. says

    One chief difference between the Forth Worth study and Shaletest’s testing is that that one did not require extensive review, debate, massage and approval by politicians. I think the video alone from just the one site speaks for itself.

    This is the second to last line in the Executive Summary: “ERG fully supports implementing all reasonable precautions to reduce emissions from the well pads and compressor stations.”

    Maybe if companies actually spent some money on some of the “New technology that virtually eliminates emissions” instead of just financing TV commercials falsely claiming they do, there wouldn’t be a need for testing.

    • Andy Mechling says

      Yes Tim, and in my view the report accompanying the FWNGAQS is a pathetic whitewash. But don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater.
      Citizens demanded a first rate study of ambient air in FW….and they got it.
      This was ground breaking stuff. If residents choose to ignore the results of the science…..why should they demand it in the first place? Surprises happen. This is how we learn. Science moves forward. Hopefully.

  8. says

    Because Former Mayor Moncrief and Council were major participants in the whitewash, and Gaswhores like Ed Ireland has an Industry funded loudpeaker to help inoculate the people. Here’s a question and Gaswhore’s answer:

    Q: How do you know that benzene is not spewing from every well in the Barnett Shale?

    A: Government and third-party regulators of the natural gas industry take chemical testing and safety seriously. After all, they live and work in the area too. Air testing continues to go on near every drilling location—all over the Barnett Shale area. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) and individual energy companies have each completed studies searching for benzene and all groups are committed to continued, regular testing. The Barnett Shale Energy Education Council plans to conduct its own study as well. Factual research and unbiased studies demonstrate that residents can be certain that unsafe levels of benzene are not being released into the North Texas environment.