On May 9, Environmental Sciences graduate student Emily Jackson was awarded the LSU School of the Coast & Environment Outstanding Student Thesis Award for 2013-2014. Her thesis “Hydraulic Fracturing: A Look at the Haynesville Shale and the Environmental Effects of Fracking,” estimates an inventory of water use, air emissions, and chemicals used in the hydraulic fracturing and drilling process. It then compares the estimates to overall regional and state-wide uses of water, as well as various air emissions and chemical discharges, and provides estimates of “learning-by-doing” effects of operator environmental performance in the Haynesville shale. David Dismukes served as her lead professor on the research project.
“Emily’s thesis topic is one very important to Louisiana from an energy, environmental, and economic perspective,” Dismukes said. “Hers is the first comprehensive, independent environmental assessment of the Haynesville shale that examines water use, air emissions, and chemicals used in the drilling and hydraulic fracturing process.”
Jackson created an extensive database of well-specific observations and matched this data (available from the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources) with information from industry non-profit reporting sources such as “Frac Focus” to estimated overall water use and discharges. The research results include:
• A comprehensive inventory of air emissions, water use and chemical uses (in concentrations and volumetric terms). While some prior studies have estimated Haynesville air emissions, those studies were based upon a number of assumptions, and not the types of well-specific characteristics utilized in Jackson’s thesis.
• The relative size of the discharges and water uses to both overall statewide statistics and regional/local statistics. The thesis generally finds that, while discharges and water uses were moderate at the state-wide level, there were some significant local impacts that needed to be monitored, particularly regarding local water use.
• Preliminary findings that show that there are environmental “learning-by-doing” impacts associated with hydraulic fracturing: namely, that firms get better in their environmental performance as the number of wells drilled/fractured increases. Findings show that water use trends for major operators in the Haynesville improved their performance considerably relative to small players developing fewer wells.