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Environment & Energy

Results Mixed In 2012 Natural Gas Drilling Emissions Data

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection has released annual emissions data for Marcellus Shale natural gas production for 2012. Emissions are tracked each year in an effort to assess air quality in the state.  

“The data shows two decreases and four increases in pollutant categories from natural gas emissions,” said DEP spokeswoman Morgan Wagner. “However, overall, total air contaminate emissions across the state have continued to decline.”

The totals reported for the 2012 natural gas emissions inventory are:

  • 16,361 tons of nitrogen oxides, a 1.09 percent decrease from 2011
  • 101 tons of sulfur dioxide, a 17.21 percent decrease from 2011
  • 7,350 tons of carbon monoxide, a 7.27 percent increase from 2011
  • 548 tons of particulate matter (PM)2.5, a 8.51 percent increase from 2011
  • 600 tons of PM10; a 3.99 percent increase from 2011
  • 4,024 tons of volatile organic compounds, a 42.70 percent increase from 2011

“The increases can probably, largely be contributed to the additional 250 compressor stations that were added to this round of reporting,” Wagner said. “They were not required to report in 2011.”
The data came from 56 Marcellus Shale operators covering 8,800 natural gas wells and 70 operators of 400 compressor stations which received gas from Marcellus Shale and traditional oil and gas well sites.

The sources used to collect data include compressor stations, dehydration units, drill rigs, heaters, venting and blow down systems and well completions. According to the DEP, the reductions represent between $14 billion and $37 billion of annual public health benefit, based on U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Methodologies.

“The overall decline is due to the steady rise in the production, development and greater use of natural gas, lower allowable emissions, installation of control technology and the deactivation of certain sources,” Wagner said.

The DEP requires owners and operators of unconventional and conventional natural gas sources to report their emissions to the agency each year. The EPA requires the state to submit a comprehensive air emissions inventory every three years. It must include emissions data from refineries, manufacturing plants, power plants, dry cleaners, cars, trucks and other vehicles.

The DEP also finalized new air quality criteria for Marcellus Shale gas well owners and operators.