Acta Geophysica

, Volume 67, Issue 1, pp 385–410 | Cite as

A probabilistic tool for multi-hazard risk analysis using a bow-tie approach: application to environmental risk assessments for geo-resource development projects

  • Alexander Garcia-AristizabalEmail author
  • Joanna Kocot
  • Raffaella Russo
  • Paolo Gasparini
Research Article - Special Issue


In this paper, we present a methodology and a computational tool for performing environmental risk assessments for geo-resource development projects. The main scope is to implement a quantitative model for performing highly specialised multi-hazard risk assessments in which risk pathway scenarios are structured using a bow-tie approach, which implies the integrated analysis of fault trees and event trees. Such a model needs to be defined in the interface between a natural/built/social environment and a geo-resource development activity perturbing it. The methodology presented in this paper is suitable for performing dynamic environmental risk assessments using state-of-the-art knowledge and is characterised by: (1) the bow-tie structure coupled with a wide range of probabilistic models flexible enough to consider different typologies of phenomena; (2) the Bayesian implementation for data assimilation; (3) the handling and propagation of modelling uncertainties; and (4) the possibility of integrating data derived form integrated assessment modelling. Beyond the stochastic models usually considered for reliability analyses, we discuss the integration of physical reliability models particularly relevant for considering the effects of external hazards and/or the interactions between industrial activities and the response of the environment in which such activities are performed. The performance of the proposed methodology is illustrated using a case study focused on the assessment of groundwater pollution scenarios associated with the management of flowback fluids after hydraulically fracturing a geologic formation. The results of the multi-hazard risk assessment are summarised using a risk matrix in which the quantitative assessments (likelihood and consequences) of the different risk pathway scenarios considered in the analysis can be compared. Finally, we introduce an open-access, web-based, service called MERGER, which constitutes a functional tool able to quantitatively evaluate risk scenarios using a bow-tie approach.


Multi-hazard risk assessment Anthropogenic hazards Bow-tie approach Monte Carlo simulations 



Basic event (of a fault tree)


Bow-tie analysis


European Plate Observing System-Implementation Phase (European project)


Environmental risk assessment


Event tree


Mean value of x


Fault tree


Hazardous materials


Homogeneous Poisson process


Integrated assessment modelling

IS-EPOS platform

Platform for Research into Anthropogenic Seismicity and other Anthropogenic Hazards, developed within IS-EPOS project


Equivalent sample size


Simulator for multi-hazard risk assessment in ExploRation/exploitation of GEoResources


Multi-hazard risk


Physical reliability model


Standard deviation of x


Shale gas exploration and exploitation induced risks (European project)


Thematic core service (in EPOS-IP project)


Anthropogenic hazards thematic core service


Top event (in a fault tree)



The work presented in this paper has been performed in the framework of the EU H2020 SHEER (Shale gas exploration and exploitation induced Risks) Project, Grant No. 640896. The implementation of the MERGER system in the IS-EPOS platform is performed in the framework of the EU H2020 EPOS-IP (European Plate Observing System) project, Grant No. 676564. AMRA (AG, RR, PG) received support from the Italian Ministry of Economic Development (MISE - DGRME) by co-financing the research activities in the framework of the cooperation agreement n. 23671 (06/08/2014). Activities from Polish partners (JK) in EPOS-IP are co-financed by Polish research funds associated with the EPOS-IP project, Grant No. 3503/H2020/15/2016/2. We thank Paolo Capuano for his support during the preparation of the work presented in this paper. We thank also two anonymous reviewers for critically reading the manuscript and suggesting substantial improvements.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

On behalf of all authors, the corresponding author states that there is no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Institute of Geophysics, Polish Academy of Sciences & Polish Academy of Sciences 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Istituto Nazionale di Geofisica e VulcanologiaSezione di BolognaBolognaItaly
  2. 2.Academic Computer Centre CyfronetAGH University of Science and TechnologyKrakówPoland
  3. 3.Center for the Analysis and Monitoring of Environmental Risks (AMRA)NaplesItaly

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