Environmental risk management

Environmental risk management

It is possible to produce shale gas in an environmentally safe way, provided that it is conducted considering the recommendations of environmental pressure analysis.

In order to determine the actual range and degree of environmental impact from shale gas production it is necessary to carry out extensive studies that will involve the monitoring of ongoing operations and an assessment of environmental impact from the procedures made in a particular location on one hand, and on the other hand will enable formulation of general conclusions on the technologies applied, supported by past experience and research studies. Dedicated scientific monitoring of the environment is a powerful tool that provides information about environmental impact from ongoing operations, enables verification of programs and undertaking remedial measures, should any undesired effect occur.

Environmental risk management, which is intended to minimize that risk as much as possible based on available resources and technologies, is composed of the following elements:

  • threat identification,
  • risk profile,
  • considering risk minimizing measures in operations planning,
  • monitoring of operations,
  • environmental monitoring (environment status assessment prior to the commencement of operations to establish the baseline and long-term monitoring throughout the stage of production and beyond),
  • emergency measures.

Development of an effective and comparative scheme for long-term monitoring of the status of the environment in regions of potential exposure to the impacts from field development and production operations, is today a particular challenge. The monitoring should cover:

  • soil air – for the presence of geogenic hydrocarbons, in particular methane gas and, in specific cases, other gases found in the deposit,
  • surface waters – tests for concentrations of selected indicators,
  • groundwater – tests for concentrations of selected indicators in locations chosen on the basis of flow model and an analysis of the quantitative status;
  • waste management/storage – for proper management or storage taking into account potential changes of characteristics with the lapse of time,
  • seismic events – for observation of the effects of production-induced rock mass decompression
  • site reclamation – to control effectiveness of the process of restoring the site to its original intended use.

Delivery of production operations in accordance with the aforementioned principles and methods will enable correct decision making in the event the risks are on an unacceptable level. This approach In addition, it will ensure transparency of actions and help to to avoid public conflicts.

Advanced multivariant tests will show the path for continued development of technology so as to ensure that shale gas production is conducted in a safe way and supported by the society. This is the biggest challenge Poland faces today.


authors: Małgorzata Woźnicka & Monika Konieczyńska

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