Atmospheric emissions and air quality impacts of natural gas production from shale formations
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Natural gas is at the core of the energy supply and security debates; new extraction technologies, such as horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, have expanded natural gas production. As with any energy system, however, natural gas has an environmental footprint and this thesis examines the air quality impacts of natural gas production. Greenhouse gas (GHG), criteria pollutant, and toxic emissions from natural gas production have been subject to a great amount of uncertainty, largely due to limited measurements of emission rates from key sources. This thesis reports direct and indirect measurements of emissions, assessing the spatial and temporal distributions of emissions, as well as the role of very high emitting wells and high emitting sources in determining national emissions. Direct measurements are used to identify, characterize and classify the most important sources of continuous and episodic emissions, and to analyze mitigation opportunities. Methods are proposed and demonstrated for reconciling these direct measurements of emissions from sources with measurements of ambient concentrations. Collectively, the direct source measurements, and analyses of ambient air pollutant measurements in natural gas production regions reported in this work improve the estimation, characterization, and methods for monitoring air quality implications of shale gas production.