Oil and gas impacts on air quality in federal lands in the Bakken region: an overview of the Bakken Air Quality Study and first results
- 1National Park Service, Air Resources Division, Lakewood, CO, USA
- 2Cooperative Institute for Research in the Atmosphere (CIRA), Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO, USA
- 3Department of Atmospheric Science, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO, USA
- 4National Park Service, Air Resources Division, Fort Collins, CO, USA
Abstract. The Bakken formation contains billions of barrels of oil and gas trapped in rock and shale. Horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing methods have allowed for extraction of these resources, leading to exponential growth of oil production in the region over the past decade. Along with this development has come an increase in associated emissions to the atmosphere. Concern about potential impacts of these emissions on federal lands in the region prompted the National Park Service to sponsor the Bakken Air Quality Study over two winters in 2013–2014. Here we provide an overview of the study and present some initial results aimed at better understanding the impact of local oil and gas emissions on regional air quality. Data from the study, along with long-term monitoring data, suggest that while power plants are still an important emissions source in the region, emissions from oil and gas activities are impacting ambient concentrations of nitrogen oxides and black carbon and may dominate recent observed trends in pollutant concentrations at some of the study sites. Measurements of volatile organic compounds also definitively show that oil and gas emissions were present in almost every air mass sampled over a period of more than 4 months.