Back to Top

Colorado State University to Propose Air Quality Study Related to Natural Gas Drilling in Garfield County Monday

Colorado State University researchers, in collaboration with Air Resource Specialists Inc., on Monday are scheduled to propose a non-partisan scientific study to examine air emissions from natural gas extraction operations in Garfield County.

The Garfield County Commissioners will formally hear about the three-year study at their regular meeting Monday in the Administration Building, 108 8th St., Glenwood Springs. The presentation is the sixth item on the afternoon agenda, which begins at 1 p.m.

“The overall goal of this project is to produce a high-quality, peer-reviewed assessment of air emissions and dispersion from well drilling, hydraulic fracturing and flowback activities in Garfield County, which has substantial drilling activities, like other parts of Colorado,” Collett said.

Collett is an expert in atmospheric chemistry and air quality. His team includes Jay Ham, a professor in CSU’s Department of Soil and Crop Sciences, Joe Adlhoch, president of Air Resource Specialists Inc., and Mark Tigges, project manager of Air Resource Specialists.

The study team will be advised by diverse panel of air quality experts. This panel includes representatives of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, the Colorado Department of Public Health and the Environment, industry scientists and the National Center for Atmospheric Research. Also assisting are CSU graduate students and postdoctoral researchers.

The proposed study would review the well development process from drilling to completion, including the use of hydraulic fracturing.

A variety of chemicals can be released to the atmosphere as part of well development activities including benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylenes along with a wide variety of other volatile hydrocarbons, Collett said. Together with methane, these compounds comprise a complex mix of volatile organic compounds. Other emissions of interest include nitrogen oxides, which can also be produced through local traffic and power generation activities.

Collett and his team expect to provide periodic progress updates on the project for Garfield County officials and the public over the course of the proposed three-year study, but to protect the integrity of the study, data are not expected to be released prior to its completion in 2015.

Increasingly, industry leaders, environmental groups and communities are looking to Colorado State to provide credible, non-partisan solutions to the complexities facing the oil and natural gas industry and the general public including issues related to water, land use, production, air, policy and cultural/social changes. CSU is known nationally for its work with natural gas beginning with the earliest elements of the exploration process – from training geologists and controlling emissions to land reclamation. The university is committed to working with industry to tackle environmental problems and to serve as good environmental stewards at the local, national and international scale.