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A road damage and life-cycle greenhouse gas comparison of trucking and pipeline water delivery systems for hydraulically fractured oil and gas field development in Colorado




Duthu, Ray C., author
Bradley, Thomas H., author
PLOS ONE, publisher

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The process of hydraulic fracturing for recovery of oil and natural gas uses large amounts of fresh water and produces a comparable amount of wastewater, much of which is typically transported by truck. Truck transport of water is an expensive and energy-intensive process with significant external costs including roads damages, and pollution. The integrated development plan (IDP) is the industry nomenclature for an integrated oil and gas infrastructure system incorporating pipeline-based transport of water and wastewater, centralized water treatment, and high rates of wastewater recycling. These IDP have been proposed as an alternative to truck transport systems so as to mitigate many of the economic and environmental problems associated with natural gas production, but the economic and environmental performance of these systems have not been analyzed to date. This study presents a quantification of lifecycle greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and road damages of a generic oil and gas field, and of an oil and gas development sited in the Denver-Julesburg basin in the northern Colorado region of the US. Results demonstrate that a reduction in economic and environmental externalities can be derived from the development of these IDP-based pipeline water transportation systems. IDPs have marginal utility in reducing GHG emissions and road damage when they are used to replace in-field water transport, but can reduce GHG emissions and road damage by factors of as much as 6 and 7 respectively, when used to replace fresh water transport and waste-disposal routes for exemplar Northern Colorado oil and gas fields.


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life cycle assessment
unconventional resources
hydraulic fracturing


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