Oil and Gas: Information on Shale Resources, Development, and Environmental and Public Health Risks (GAO-12-732)

Overview

Estimates of the size of shale oil and gas resources in the United States by the Energy Information Administration (EIA), U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), and the Potential Gas Committee--three organizations that estimate the size of these resources--have increased over the last 5 years, which could mean an increase in the nation's energy portfolio. For example, in 2012, EIA estimated that the amount of technically recoverable shale gas in the United States was 482 trillion cubic feet--an increase of 280 percent ...
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Overview

Estimates of the size of shale oil and gas resources in the United States by the Energy Information Administration (EIA), U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), and the Potential Gas Committee--three organizations that estimate the size of these resources--have increased over the last 5 years, which could mean an increase in the nation's energy portfolio. For example, in 2012, EIA estimated that the amount of technically recoverable shale gas in the United States was 482 trillion cubic feet--an increase of 280 percent from EIA's 2008 estimate. However, according to EIA and USGS officials, estimates of the size of shale oil and gas resources in the United States are highly dependent on the data, methodologies, model structures, and assumptions used to develop them. In addition, less is known about the amount of technically recoverable shale oil than shale gas, in part because large-scale production of shale oil has been under way for only the past few years. Estimates are based on data available at a given point in time and will change as additional information becomes available. In addition, domestic shale oil and gas production has experienced substantial growth; shale oil production increased more than fivefold from 2007 to 2011, and shale gas production increased more than fourfold from 2007 to 2011. Oil and gas development, whether conventional or shale oil and gas, pose inherent environmental and public health risks, but the extent of these risks associated with shale oil and gas development is unknown, in part, because the studies GAO reviewed do not generally take into account the potential long-term, cumulative effects. For example, according to a number of studies and publications GAO reviewed, shale oil and gas development poses risks to air quality, generally as the result of (1) engine exhaust from increased truck traffic, (2) emissions from diesel-powered pumps used to power equipment, (3) gas that is flared (burned) or vented (released directly into the atmosphere) for operational reasons, and (4) unintentional emissions of pollutants from faulty equipment or impoundments--temporary storage areas. Similarly, a number of studies and publications GAO reviewed indicate that shale oil and gas development poses risks to water quality from contamination of surface water and groundwater as a result of erosion from ground disturbances, spills and releases of chemicals and other fluids, or underground migration of gases and chemicals. For example, tanks storing toxic chemicals or hoses and pipes used to convey wastes to the tanks could leak, or impoundments containing wastes could overflow as a result of extensive rainfall. According to the New York Department of Environmental Conservation's 2011 Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement, spilled, leaked, or released chemicals or wastes could flow to a surface water body or infiltrate the ground, reaching and contaminating subsurface soils and aquifers. In addition, shale oil and gas development poses a risk to land resources and wildlife habitat as a result of constructing, operating, and maintaining the infrastructure necessary to develop oil and gas; using toxic chemicals; and injecting fluids underground. However, the extent of these risks is unknown. Further, the extent and severity of environmental and public health risks identified in the studies and publications GAO reviewed may vary significantly across shale basins and also within basins because of location- and process-specific factors, including the location and rate of development; geological characteristics, such as permeability, thickness, and porosity of the formations; climatic conditions; business practices; and regulatory and enforcement activities.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781482780703
  • Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
  • Publication date: 3/15/2013
  • Pages: 74
  • Product dimensions: 8.50 (w) x 11.00 (h) x 0.15 (d)

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