Science of the Total Environment
Natural gas (NG) from shale formations (or shale gas) is an unconventional energy resource whose potential environmental impacts are still not adequately assessed. Hence, this study performs a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) of shale gas considering a gas well under appraisal in Burgos, Spain. An attributional model was developed, considering the NG pre-production and production phases in the system boundaries, considering 1 MJ of processed NG as a functional unit. Results were obtained through the CML-IA baseline method (developed by the Center of Environmental Science of Leiden University) and showed that well design, drilling and casing, hydraulic fracturing, NG production, gathering, and processing are critical processes. To better address the environmental impacts, a comparison with similar studies was carried out, as well as a sensitivity and an uncertainty analysis using Monte Carlo simulation (MCS). The model was found to be particularly sensitive to water usage in hydraulic fracturing and to the number of workovers with hydraulic fracturing. Limited data availability for shale gas exploration still poses a challenge for an accurate LCA. Even though shale gas remains controversial, it still can be considered as a strategic energy resource, requiring a precautionary approach when considering its exploitation and exploration. © 2018 Elsevier B.V.
Year of publication: 2018