Drilling health effects debated at forum

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Interesting meeting in Parachute last evening. Dr. John Hughes presented a talk about his blood testing program showing hydrocarbon marker levels. He tested in Erie, Colorado (Weld ,County) and our Carbondale and Silt (Garfield , County). The usual discussion of sources of hydrocarbon emerged as the hydrocarbons do have several sources.

What one thing was lacking was a description of those sources and how do they compare in contribution. This is information not commonly available and is left to suppositions and a tendency, by speakers of different views, to point to a single source or to deflect from a source toward another.

Let us clarify some of this by compiled numbers from Colorado Department of Health and Environment 2011 Inventory of Volatile Organic Compounds data spreadsheets, the hydrocarbons in question.

So let us look at these sources:
Biogenic (more correctly referred as BVOC).

“Biogenic volatile organic compounds produced by plants are involved in plant growth, development, reproduction and defence. They also function as communication media within plant communities, between plants and between plants and insects. Because of the high chemical reactivity of many of these compounds, coupled with their large mass emission rates from vegetation into the atmosphere, they have significant effects on the chemical composition and physical characteristics of the atmosphere. Hence, biogenic volatile organic compounds mediate the relationship between the biosphere and the atmosphere. Alteration of this relationship by anthropogenically driven changes to the environment, including global climate change, may perturb these interactions and may lead to adverse and hard-to-predict consequences for the Earth system.”

However, the acetaldehyde, formaldehyde, methanol, acetone, formic acid, acetic acid, ethanol, and ethylene are about 25% of the concentrations with the other being isoprene, monoterpene being 50% and 25% respectively. The isoprene lasts 0.2 of a day and the monoterpene lasts 0.1- to 0.2 of a day, the acetaldehyde and formaldehyde last <1 day, and others last >1 day. The bulk emissions are seasonal in intensity and would have some correspondence to the allergen seasons as well.

Besides Biogenic there are:
Agriculture, Aircraft, Commercial cooking, Construction, Forest and prescribed fire, Fuel combustion, Highway vehicles, Non-road, O&G Area, O&O Point, O&G Condensate tanks, Pesticide application, Portable fuel containers, Railroads, Road Dust, Structure fires, Surface coating Tank trucks in transit,  and Wood burning emissions recorded.
For Garfield County these all, including Biogenic, total: 66,643.2 tons/year
  O&G sources of area, point, and condensate tanks = 35,738.4 tons/year or 53.6%
  The next highest source of the list is Biogenic = 27,966 tons/year or 42%
  Followed by Highway vehicles = 1,075.9 tons/year or 1.6%
  All others combined represent 1,862.9 tons/year or 2.7%

For Weld County these all, including Biogenic, total: 136,010.2 tons/year
  O&G sources of area, point, and condensate tanks = 106,361.1 tons/year or 78.2%
  The next highest source of the list is Biogenic = 19,927 tons/year or 14.6%
  Followed by Highway vehicles = 3,100 tons/year or 2.3%
  All others combined represent 6,622.1 tons/year or 4.9%

Now lets us look at a list of the O&G Hazardous Air Pollutants (HAP) of the VOCs:

Tons per Year - (with like VOCs to BVOCs listings)

Source: Air Pollution Control Division spread sheet “2011pointHAPS” (2 Tabs)
HAP     O&G totals   Other totals   O&G % of all State Amts.
acetaldehyde,    202.32   63.07     76.2%
acrolein   145.63   3.05     97.9%
benzene         680.21   87.52     88.6%
ethylbenzene   47.17   26.35     64.1%
formaldehyde   1096.82   235.49     82.3%
hexane         180.78   63.77     73.9%
toluene         953.51   293.77     76.4%
xylene         729.63   244.32     74.9%
methanol   810.81   73.15     91.7%


We quickly see the list of HAPs includes many more hydrocarbons than the Biogenic sources and is in much greater quantities than all Other sources including Biogenic and Highway traffics.

That would leave us with the question, why would the Silt part of Garfield County have like testing of human blood to Erie patients and not Carbondale patients?  Perhaps the answer lies in the proximity of sources and topographical terrain. Erie and Silt are surrounded by O&G production with an exception to the North of Silt, but that North area is bound by the natural barrier of the Grand Hogback. Carbondale, on the other hand, is shielded from production sites by that barrier. Air flows are raised up over 2,000 feet in elevation and distance from existing sources is extended. An interesting note is that the mix of VOCs and NOXs formed ozone at the higher elevations of Sunlight, Spring Valley and Aspen Mountain in the spring months of snow still being on the ground vs. usual summer months and definitely showed a presence of VOCs at higher elevations above the Carbondale area. This was also reflected in lesser ozone at Aspen than up on Aspen Mountain. This shielding of Carbondale would be reduced by increased Thompson-Divide activity as sources would be moved closer to the area and would have a new ground level origin and density as opposed to any buoyancy and dilution added by distance.

Therefore, if the greatest contributor to the doubling of VOC amounts and adding to the hazardous mix, is addressed as the problem of VOC source ailments, then O&G is the source that must be corrected; and, has the most approaches available, as it is a result of operational methods, practices and equipment.

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