FORT WORTH ― A News 8 investigation into a cancer-causing toxin in the Barnett Shale has resulted in more testing and questions.
News 8 first reported in October air samples revealed high levels of benzene, a cancer-causing toxin, near some natural gas facilities in the Barnett Shale. After ensuing public concern, the City of Fort Worth asked TCEQ to investigate the air inside the city.
The results of an emissions survey were released at Tuesday's Fort Worth pre-council meeting.
TCEQ investigators used a toxic vapor analyzer along with infrared cameras to survey 126 natural gas facility sites. When either an infrared camera or a toxic vapor analyzer indicated there might be significant levels of emissions in the air, the TCEQ team took actual air samples.
Of eight air samples taken, none contained benzene.
Drillers said the results are not a surprise to them because the gas produced in Fort Worth is dry meaning it contains extremely low levels of chemicals.
Chesapeake Energy, the biggest natural gas producer in Fort Worth, responded to the results on Tuesday.
Chesapeake Energy is pleased to hear the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality s (TCEQ) survey results support Chesapeake s previous statements that the production of natural gas in Tarrant County does not negatively impact the ambient air quality, the company said in a written statement. Chesapeake continues to work with the TCEQ to ensure that it continues to meet its goal of 100 percent compliance.
John Satterfield, Chesapeake Energy's southern division director of environmental and regulatory affairs saidthe companyhas historically not tested the ambient air near its natural gas facilities in the Barnett Shale because there were no regulations requiring it to do so.
He declined to say whether Chesapeake has begun taking air samples since the disclosure that TCEQ testing found high levels of benzene at locations outside of Fort Worth.
TCEQ will continue testing, and it plans to collect more air samples in Fort Worth during warmer weather. Emissions from natural gas facilities are generally lower in cold weather because it is more difficult for the chemicals to vaporize.
While we did not document any dangerous ambient air pollution during this study in Fort Worth, we will continue to perform additional studies and monitoring in the Barnett Shale, said TCEQ Executive Director Mark Vickery.
Environmental Protection Agency Region 6 Administrator Al Armendariz applauded the efforts of both TCEQ and the City of Fort Worth along with their plans for further testing.
The toxic vapor analyzer is an approximate guide as to where you might find some hotspots, he said. It doesn t mean that everywhere else there was nothing. Certainly the more samples you get, the better data you get.
TCEQ is expected to release the results and locations of 301 air samples as part of its Barnett Shale Air Quality Study later in January. The samples were taken at about 30 facilities.
The agency has released examples of the higher levels of benzene found in samples thus far.
They include 540 ppb near a facility in the DISH area, 15,000 ppb at a wellhead in the Decatur area, 93 ppb at a Springtown location, 30 ppb in Justin, 24 ppb in the Weatherford area, and 5.4 ppb at a Cleburne area location.
The average benzene level in the Dallas-Fort Worth area is .2 parts per billion.