Researchers evaluate effects of natural gas development

A team of researchers is exploring ways to maximise the benefits of natural gas development while minimizing negative impacts on ecosystems and communities.

Armed with a $12million National Science Foundation to University of Colorado-Boulder (CU-Boulder), and led by Professor Joseph Ryan of CU-Boulder's civil, environmental and architectural engineering department, the team will examine social, ecological and economic aspects of the development of natural gas resources and the protection of air and water resources.

A part of NSF's Sustainability Research Network initiative, or SRN, the project will focus on the Rocky Mountain region, where natural gas development, as well as objections to it, are increasing.

''We all create demand for natural gas so we have to accept some of the outcomes of its extraction,'' said Ryan.  ''Our goal is to provide a framework for society to evaluate the trade-offs associated with the benefits and costs of natural gas development.''

The SRN team assembled by Ryan includes air and water quality experts, social scientists, human health experts, information technology experts and a substantial outreach and education effort.  The SRN team is being advised by an external committee that includes representatives of the oil and gas industry, regulatory agencies, environmental organisations, local governments, academia and Native American tribes. 

Preparation of the SRN proposal to the NSF was fostered by CU-Boulder's Office for University Outreach, which supported the creation of the Colorado Water and Energy Research Center, says Ryan.