SP3. Impact on air quality and global climate
Emissions to atmosphere are a significant potential environmental impact of shale gas exploration and exploitation, and these are targeted in this subprogram.
It is both crucial to minimize these adverse atmosphere quality and health impacts in nearby communities and, at the same time, to maximize the potential climate benefits of industrial-scale shale gas use. From the perspective of sustainability the introduction of shale gas in Europe can only be successful when considering how to minimise emissions of atmosphere pollutants and greenhouse gases. As shale gas exploitation in Europe is still in its infancy, it is timely to develop the methods and framework to minimize environmental risks of atmosphere emissions. To confidently evaluate the risks and to effectively manage operations, quality emissions data are needed. Emissions to atmosphere are also critical to assess the positive climate aspects of shale gas exploitation. Electricity production using (natural) gas instead of coal produces far less carbon dioxide. This advantage however is not undisputed, as leakage of CH4 (a potent greenhouse gas) during exploitation could easily offset the advantage of gas over coal. Research activities in this subprogram will provide (1) case studies on monitoring atmospheric composition specifically addressing tracers for shale gas leakages, and (2) a quantification of expected leakage rates and emissions, causes of this leakage and solutions to reduce the leakage rates and emissions to air. We will provide a comparison of greenhouse gas emissions between shale gas and other energy sources. The research will be used together with reviews of existing data to provide integrated scientific recommendations for best practices on minimising the footprint on air quality and global climate that will be input to the integrated European knowledge base including all risks, impacts and scientific recommendations.