Air Study Finds No Harmful Levels of Benzene at Texas Gas Sites

The Barnett Shale Energy Education Council (BSEEC) on July 14 released the results of its air quality testing project which showed there are no harmful levels of benzene and other compounds being emitted from natural gas sites tested in Fort Worth and Arlington City Council District 2.

“As an educational resource, we recognized the community’s need for more information about natural gas drilling and air quality that is transparent, independent and scientifically sound,” said Ed Ireland, Ph.D., executive director of BSEEC.

The study was conducted by Titan Engineering, Inc. to assess ambient air quality surrounding natural gas operations. In total, there were 10 natural gas sites tested, including two compressor stations recommended by the city of Fort Worth and eight producing well sites, including both condensate producing and dry natural gas wells. While previous air monitoring studies in Fort Worth have evaluated natural gas sites at random, the company tested completed well sites within the cities of Fort Worth and Arlington District 2, which were projected to have the highest benzene emissions.

In order to select these sites, Titan identified those with the highest production of natural gas and liquids, based upon the most recent natural gas production data available at the time from natural gas operators and the Railroad Commission. In two instances, sites with the second highest projected benzene emissions levels were selected due to their close proximity to nearby homes and schools.

“Because we tested sites projected to have the highest benzene emission rates and found no site-related concentrations in excess of the study's health-based criteria, Titan concludes that harmful levels of benzene and other compounds are not being emitted from natural gas sites in the study area,” said Doug Canter, principal and lead of the study.

Through its rigorous air sample testing methodology, Titan used best practices, analytical methods and standards used by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the American Society for Testing and Materials. The study used sensitive analytical measurement techniques to detect volatile organic compounds (VOCs) such as benzene, sulfur compounds, and formaldehyde. VOC samples were collected at the sites on both a one-hour and 24-hour composite basis and submitted to certified third-party laboratories for analysis.

Not only did this study compare the detectable compound concentrations with the study's health-based criteria established by the Texas Council on Environmental Quality and the U.S. Department of Health, but Titan also investigated any other possible contributing sources to the readings. The company was able to differentiate between the natural gas site contributions to detectable compound concentrations and contributions from other sources, based on comparison of upwind and downwind sampling in the vicinity of the natural gas sites.

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