In no place in North America has large scale shale gas drilling and development taken place so close to a large population as in Fort Worth, Texas. Fort Worth sits atop the Barnett Shale, where shale drilling has been the most intense for the longest period.
Within the city of Fort Worth, there are 375 shale gas wells, 8 compressor stations and other gas production equipment. At the instigation of the residents of Fort Worth, the city government commissioned a one year, one million dollar study of the air emissions and possible health impacts. The study was done by the Eastern Research Group.
You can download the study or view it at http://www.fortworthgov.org/ or the link to it is http://fortworthgov.org/gaswells/default.aspx?id=87074.
This study is professional, objective, scientific, well-done. It is important to read.
Eastern Research Group found "no significant health threat" from the development that has taken place to date, that the 600 foot setback requirement is adequate to protect health in most cases, that some equipment needed maintenance to reduce emissions, and recommended the installation of new pollution controls like vapor recovery units on tanks and 3-way catalysts/and or catalytic oxidizers at compressor stations.
The report also documents that the nitrogen oxide emissions from the 8 compressor stations is about 500 tons per year or about 60 tons each. This is a problem if the cumulative number of compressors reaches into the hundreds.
The Marcellus development will run into a legal roadblock if each compressor engine emits 60 to 80 tons per year. Total Pennsylvania nitrogen oxide emissions--from all sources--in 2010 was about 180,000 tons. And that number must decline to meet Clean Air Act requirements.
Each compressor cannot emit 60 plus tons in Pennsylvania if a legal battle royal is to be avoided. The good news is that the combination of pollution controls and electricity or gas instead of diesel to power the engines can cut the per compressor nitrogen oxide emissions to 5 tons per year.
Technology and cleaner fuels exist to make sure that the nitrogen oxide emissions cumulatively from Marcellus development is modest. They must be used.