Traffic-related environmental impacts of hydraulic-fracturing operations



Fracking operations require large numbers of vehicles, particularly in the first months of operation during well pad construction and drilling. Throughout a well's lifetime, vehicles may be needed for transport of fracking fluids, construction materials, and potentially the extracted gas itself. 

There is concern over what impact these vehicles may have on local infrastructure, air quality and road safety, particularly given the likely rural location of fracking operations. Research conducted by the ReFINE consortium, UK, uses modelling to attempt to predict and quantify what impacts traffic may have under different scenarios. The recently published research article Investigating the Traffic Related Impacts of Hydraulic Fracturing (Fracking) Operations can be accessed here

Exploratory analyses using the newly-created Traffic Impacts Model (TIM) have revealed that the traffic impact of a single well pad can create substantial increases in local air quality pollutants during key activity periods, primarily involving the delivery of water and materials for fracking to the site. Normalisation of NOx and noise emission values over a longer period, such as the time of completion of all wells on a pad, mitigates the ‘raw values’ but may present a distorted picture of the actual impact on the local population. 

Somewhat conversely, the use of the model to explore hypothetical future technology timelines over a range of well development scenarios covering several decades, shows that the overall impact on a region, or a country as a whole, appears somewhat negligible compared to general traffic or industrial activities

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Traffic-related environmental impacts of hydraulic-fracturing operations