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April 20, 2015

Hydraulic fracturing: Using scientific methods to evaluate trade-offs

In Colorado, drilling for oil and natural gas using hydraulic fracturing, sometimes referred to as fracking, is big business. But, questions about its impact on the air and water are far from settled. With support from the National Science Foundation (NSF), University of Colorado environmental engineer Joseph Ryan heads a team gathering data on the pros and cons of oil and natural gas development, including the use of hydraulic fracturing. The broad research goals of the team include exploring potential impacts on water and air quality, human health and energy sustainability. For example, the researchers are investigating how long hydraulic fracturing chemicals persist should the chemicals make their way into the groundwater. And, team members are working with local residents to gather air quality data on carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds, ozone and nitrogen dioxide.

Credit: National Science Foundation

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