Characterizing hydraulic fracturing fluid greenness: application of a hazard-based index approach
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- Hurley, T., Chhipi-Shrestha, G., Gheisi, A. et al. Clean Techn Environ Policy (2016) 18: 647. doi:10.1007/s10098-015-1054-2
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Growth of the unconventional gas industry is predicted to continue to be an important component of the global energy landscape. The rapid expansion of shale and tight gas development has raised many environmental and human health concerns, particularly in regards to ground and surface water contamination. The unconventional gas industry has begun to transition toward the use of hydraulic fracturing chemicals that pose minimal environmental and human health hazards in order to mitigate the risks associated with possible chemical containment failure. Integrated chemical hazard evaluation has been facilitated by an adapted index-based approach to combine noncommensurate multiparameter chemical hazard data into a single score value. Comparative analysis of existing chemical hazard index scoring systems as well as the formulation of a novel hydraulic fracturing fluid greenness assessment system revealed several important considerations for index development and application. Index scores calculated using the investigated index systems highlighted the need for informed, optimized hazard class selection as input for score determination, the maintenance of hazard category intensity during parameter transformation, as well as representative hazard class and chemical component mathematical weightings, and robust aggregation techniques for final score calculation. Continued research should work to model the combined hazard posed by individual chemicals while considering the effect of dilution as well as incorporate additional index metrics beyond hazard intensity. Fully disclosed index systems, applied with complete knowledge of their strengths and weaknesses, provide useful monitoring and communication tools to promote environmental-best practices in the unconventional gas industry.