Document Type

Thesis

Date of Degree

Summer 2015

Degree Name

MS (Master of Science)

Degree In

Biomedical Engineering

First Advisor

Thomas Peters

Abstract

Silica sand is used in the hydraulic fracturing process as a proppant—a material that holds open fissures in a rock formation to allow oil and gas to escape. Due to the increased demand for proppant sand, numerous sand mining and processing facilities have been constructed in the vicinity of small communities. Silica sand contains crystalline silica, which can cause chronic health problems such as silicosis. This study monitored airborne particulate matter at residences within 800 m from the facilities property line, with active mining, processing, and/or transport. Real-time particulate air monitoring with automated acquisition of explanatory variables: sound and motion to detect transportation; and wind speed and direction to attribute measured PM concentrations to specific sources. The highest daily mean concentrations were 37.3 μg/m3 for PM10 and 14.5 μg/m3 for PM2.5, both of which are well below the EPA National Ambient Air Quality Standards. Using conditional probability plots of PM relative to wind direction elevated short-term (20 second) peak concentrations were more likely to occur when the wind was blowing from the sand facility. These peak concentrations occurred infrequently, ranging from 0% to 3% of the sampling time. This study did not measure crystalline silica specifically, but low PM concentrations were observed so crystalline silica is expected to be low. Since PM concentrations were low near the facilities, it can be concluded that these facilities do not increase airborne particulate matter to hazardous concentrations that could cause chronic health conditions.

Public Abstract

Silica sand is used in the hydraulic fracturing process as a proppant—a material that holds open fissures in a rock formation to allow oil and gas to escape. Due to the increased demand for proppant sand, numerous sand mining and processing facilities have been constructed in the vicinity of small communities. Silica sand contains crystalline silica, which can cause long term health problems such as silicosis. This study monitored dust at residences within 800 m from the facilities property line, with active mining, processing, and/or transport. Real-time dust monitoring paired with: sound and motion to detect transportation; and wind speed and direction to link measured dust concentrations to specific sources. The highest 24-hour average dust concentrations were well below the regulatory air quality standards. Using wind direction data it was observed that elevated short-term dust concentrations were more likely to occur when the wind was blowing from the sand facility. These elevated concentrations occurred infrequently, ranging from 0% to 3% of the time. This study did not measure crystalline silica specifically, but low dust concentrations were observed so crystalline silica is expected to also be low. Since dust concentrations were low near the facilities, it can be concluded that these facilities do not increase dust to hazardous levels that could cause long term health problems.

Keywords

publicabstract, Air Quality, Community, Crystalline Silica, Hydraulic Fracturing, Particulate Matter, Sand

Pages

ix, 131

Bibliography

127-131

Copyright

Copyright 2015 Ryan James Grant

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