The development of large-scale shale gas production has been described as a game-changer for the US energy market and has generated interest in expanding the use of natural gas in sectors such as electricity generation and transportation. This development has been made possible by improvements in drilling technologies—specifically utilizing hydraulic fracturing in conjunction with horizontal drilling—that have enabled the production of natural gas from unconventional formations. However, the environmental implications of natural gas production and its use have been called into question. Environmental impacts associated with shale gas development can occur at the global and local levels and include impacts to climate, local air quality, water availability, water quality, seismic events, and the local community. A variety of technologies and practices are available to operators to reduce these impacts. Policies are currently under development at the federal, state, and local level to mitigate environmental impacts. In this document, we discuss the technologies involved in shale gas production, the potential abiotic impacts of shale gas production with an emphasis on air and water issues, and the practices and policies currently being developed and implemented to mitigate these impacts.
Environmental Practice 14:249–261 (2012)