Study Links Oil And Gas Extraction To Ozone Chemicals

By Tom Kenworthy

Oil and gas development in an area of Colorado that is in the midst of a huge drilling boom is contributing more than half of the chemical pollution that contributes to the formation of ozone, a new study by University of Colorado scientists has found.

The research by scientists at the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES) at the University of Colorado may have important implications for the shale oil and shale gas revolution underway in many parts of the U.S. It may have particular relevance to other rural areas of the West – in the Uinta Basin of northeastern Utah and Sublette County, Wyoming south of Jackson — that have been plagued by high ozone alerts in recent winters, sometimes higher than the Los Angeles basin.

Both the Utah and Wyoming regions have intensive oil and gas development and the ozone alerts in those areas have often been described as a puzzle with possibly many contributing factors. A $5 million study is underway in the Uinta Basin to ferret out the likely causes of the region’s ozone problem.  Ozone pollution is a factor in a range of health problems including respiratory illnesses and asthma.

In the Colorado study, published online in the journal Environmental Science and Technology, researchers determined that 55 percent of the airborne volatile organic compounds that contribute to ozone in the town of Erie were coming from oil and gas operations. The scientists were able to make that precise determination using a recently discovered chemical signature that can differentiate between oil and gas emissions and those coming from vehicles and other sources.

“We had a very strong signature from the raw natural gas,” said Jessica Gilman the CIRES study lead author in an interview with the Boulder Daily Camera newspaper.

The town of Erie is located in Weld County, a 4,000 square mile county northeast of Boulder and east of Fort Collins. That county, which overlays a hot new oil and gas play in the Niobrara Formation, has nearly 20,000 oil and gas wells, though it had about 15,000 during the study period.

Recent intensive development of oil and gas that is creeping into urban and suburban areas has prompted widespread concern in some Weld County communities about health and social impacts, with residents complaining about ill effects ranging from nosebleeds and headaches to asthma attacks.  The town has imposed a six-month moratorium on new drilling permits, and another community to the north, Longmont, has voted to exclude drilling within city limits, prompting a suit by the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission that regulates drilling.

Tom Kenworthy is a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress Action Fund.

8 Responses to Study Links Oil And Gas Extraction To Ozone Chemicals

  1. catman306 says:

    “Ozone pollution is a factor in a range of health problems including respiratory illnesses and asthma.”

    Ozone pollution also sickens, weakens, and leads to opportunistic infections and infestations that effect most photosynthetic plants. This is why so many trees are dying world wide from such a variety of causes.

    Google ‘dying trees’.

  2. Leif says:

    Fossil’s solution: put a big fan at the edge of the basin and power it with tax free flair gas and call it recycling. Dilution is the solution to pollution in their world. The rest is “SEPs,” Someone Else’s Problem. Like ours for instance.

  3. Hugh Kimball says:

    No one should be surprised at this.

  4. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    It’s all so wickedly synergistic. Put the worst people, driven by the vilest impulses (greed, primarily), operating under the most immoral and destructive system ever devised by the evil genius of Homo destructans, neo-liberal capitalism, and you just have to get auto-genocide. For years I’ve really thought that, when faced by the brute reality of self-destruction, that even the most diabolical would pull back. However, instead, the clearer become the ‘shadow of death’ the more frantically do they drive forward into ‘the Horror’.

  5. catman306 says:

    Better yet Google ‘dying trees ozone’.

  6. Joanne Corey says:

    More evidence to back up the work from Cornell and other institutions and organizations such as Endocrine Disruption Exchange documenting air and atmospheric pollution.

  7. Merrelyn Emery says:

    Ozone has more effects than these. Having been on the receiving end of the effects of the South polar ozone hole, we had to bring in drastic measures to protect people, particularly little kids, from skin cancers caused by ultra violet, ME

  8. Merrelyn Emery says:

    Forget that. I misconstrued it, ME