Emissions of Particulate Matter due to Marcellus Shale Gas Development in Pennsylvania: Mapping the Implications

Over the past decade, the shale gas boom has led to increasing public concerns regarding the effects of population exposure to air pollutants from shale gas development activities with concentrations higher than the EPA’s National Ambient Air Quality Standards originating. This study investigates the sufficiency of current policy in Pennsylvania in protecting people from exposure to levels of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) which exceed this standard. We used a Gaussian plume model to simulate the fine particulate matter (PM2.5) concentrations over the Marcellus shale region of Pennsylvania, considering the temporal and spatial density of these activities between 2005 and 2017. Simulation results were synced with census block data to estimate the potential number of people who experienced exceedances of the PM2.5 air quality standards during this period. Results demonstrate that setback policy in Pennsylvania may not be adequate to maintain the exposure level in residential areas below the standard. Emissions from shale gas development alone (not accounting for background concentration) could cause up to 174 persons in one year (2015) to experience concentrations higher than the EPA’s annual standard for PM2.5. The additional number of exceedances from shale gas development to those attributable to background is estimated to raise up to more than 36,000 persons in a single year which is almost 1% of the Marcellus Shale regional population in Pennsylvania. Findings indicate that the number of affected residents has largely been proportional to the overall number of developed wells in the state, but specific development histories in some counties and in some years show how similar levels of development could occur with reduced population exposure. Setback distance is shown to be an effective method to reduce some exposure exceedances, but it should be revised based on the number of wells per wellpad as well as the local conditions to further limit air quality impacts.



Work Title Emissions of Particulate Matter due to Marcellus Shale Gas Development in Pennsylvania: Mapping the Implications
Open Access
  1. Jeremy M. Gernand
  2. Zoya Banan
  1. setback policy, community air quality, emission exposure, gaussian plume model, natural gas exploration, Marcellus shale
License CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 (Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives)
Work Type Article
DOI doi:10.26207/4jw2-qd97
Deposited November 19, 2019




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Work History

Version 1

  • Created
  • Added PREPRINT_Manuscript__Clean_version__20191119.pdf
  • Added PREPRINT_Supplemental_Material_2.pdf
  • Added PREPRINT_Supplemental_Material_1.pdf
  • Added Creator Jeremy M. Gernand
  • Added Creator Zoya Banan
  • Published