A study on the new methods for oil and gas development was conducted under the supervision of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration showed that fracking could be the cause for significant high levels of ozone in areas near oil fields.
Ozone, which is a molecule consisting of three oxygen atoms, is normally present in the upper atmosphere and shields the earth and its inhabitants from UV radiation in the form of the well-known ozone layer. Close to the ground, ozone in high concentrations is an air pollutant and the main ingredient of smog. Ground-level ozone is formed when volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and nitrogen oxides, mainly from vehicle exhaust gases, react with each other in the air. However, smog usually occurs during the summer, which is due to high levels of solar radiation, temperature and humidity that promote these reactions.
For this reason, it is very unusual that high ozone levels have been measured near the ground during the winter in western United States. This occurred in oil and gas fields. An international research team decided to investigate the incidents. Their investigation showed that emission of VOCs in the oil and gas field were very high because of the nature of the process employed, as well as the leaks. Nitrogen oxides coming from trucks, pumps, compressors and other equipment with internal combustion engines reacted with the VOCS, thus ozone is formed. The precursors of ozone formation could not dissipate immediately because the ground is covered with snow. It shows that there is no air interchange, so the ground-level air is saturated with VOCS and nitrogen oxides. They wait for the time to react to each other. When the sun rises just enough on the snow covered ground and is reflected back, it sets the conditions to produce ozone near the ground even during winter.
Negative Effects of Fracking on Oxygen Level
- Pollutant emissions from fracking activities is approximately equal to emissions from all cars and trucks plying in a region.
- Fracking companies engage in lighting the frack water on fire and evaporates it into the air. It pollutes the air and is conducive to ground level ozone and toxic chemicals which can result in health consequences for residents in areas near drilling areas.
- It contributes to the thinning of the ozone layer and people are now exposed to UV radiation. There will be many health consequences when this happens.