NCEAS Product 25262

Patterson, Lauren; Konschnik, Kate; Wiseman, Hannah; Fargione, Joseph E.; Maloney, Kelly O; Kiesecker, Joseph M.; Nicot, Jean Philippe; Baruch-Mordo, Sharon; Entrekin, Sally; Trainor, Anne M.; Saiers, James. 2017. Unconventional oil and gas spills: Risks, mitigation priorities, and state reporting requirements. Environmental Science & Technology. (Abstract)


Rapid growth in unconventional oil and gas (UOG) has produced jobs, revenue, and energy, but also concerns over spills and environmental risks. We assessed spill data from 2005 to 2014 at 31 481 UOG wells in Colorado, New Mexico, North Dakota, and Pennsylvania. We found 2−16% of wells reported a spill each year. Median spill volumes ranged from 0.5 m3 in Pennsylvania to 4.9 m3 in New Mexico; the largest spills exceeded 100 m3. Seventy-five to 94% of spills occurred within the first three years of well life when wells were drilled, completed, and had their largest production volumes. Across all four states, 50% of spills were related to storage and moving fluids via flowlines. Reporting rates varied by state, affecting spill rates and requiring extensive time and effort getting data into a usable format. Enhanced and standardized regulatory requirements for reporting spills could improve the accuracy and speed of analyses to identify and prevent spill risks and mitigate potential environmental damage. Transparency for data sharing and analysis will be increasingly important as UOG development expands. We designed an interactive spills data visualization tool ( html) to illustrate the value of having standardized, public data.