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Mobile Measurements of Marcellus Shale Natural Gas Development

Sponsor

Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI)

Principal Investigator

Dr. Peter DeCarlo, Assistant Professor, Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering; Chemistry

IExE Cluster

Energy, Environment and Society

Summary

The Marcellus shale is an unconventional natural gas resource underlying a large portion of the Appalachian region.  The natural gas reserve has only recently been tapped and has undergone rapid development in large parts of Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia. Significant natural gas production in this region has lowered prices for natural gas and led to increased use of natural gas for power production.  While emissions at point of production are lower for natural gas in comparison to coal and other fossil fuels, upstream air emissions from the production and distribution of natural gas need to be considered when evaluating the total environmental impact of a fuel.

In the summer of 2012 a team from Drexel Air Resources Research Laboratory (DARRL) collaborated with researchers from Aerodyne Research Inc. to understand the extent of air pollution emissions from Marcellus shale extraction and distribution activity, and to investigate these emissions in the context of regional air quality impacts. For this study the Aerodyne Research Inc. mobile laboratory equipped with research grade real-time air monitoring equipment was implemented to sample ambient air in areas of Pennsylvania with high concentrations of Marcellus shale activity. Emission rates from Marcellus Shale production and distribution activities were measured using a dual tracer release methodology.  Key atmospheric pollutants were measured at 1 second resolution while driving with the Aerodyne Mobile Laboratory.  An in-depth analysis of the measured pollutants and their emissions will provide researchers with key information to understand the impact on regional air quality and to establish a baseline of pollutant concentrations in the Marcellus Shale basin while the development of this resource is in its early stages.