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Transport of hydraulic fracturing waste from Pennsylvania wells: A county-level analysis of road use and associated road repair costs

December 8, 2016

Pennsylvania’s rapid unconventional oil and gas (UOG) development—from a single well in 2004 to more than 6700 wells in 2013—has dramatically increased UOG waste transport by heavy trucks. This study quantified the amount of UOG waste and the distance it traveled between wells and disposal facilities on each type of road in each county between July 2010 and December 2013. In addition, the study estimated the associated financial costs to each county’s road infrastructure over that period. We found that UOG wells produced a median wastewater volume of 1294 m3 and a median of 89,267 kg of solid waste. The median number of waste-transport truck trips per well was 122. UOG wells existed in 38 Pennsylvania counties, but we estimated trucks transporting well waste traveled through 132 counties, including counties in West Virginia, Ohio, and New York. Median travel distance varied by disposal type, from 106 km to centralized treatment facilities up to 237 km to injection wells. Local roads experienced the greatest amount of truck traffic and associated costs ($1.1–6.5 M) and interstates, the least ($0.3–1.6 M). Counties with oil and gas development experienced the most truck traffic and incurred the highest associated roadway costs. However, many counties outside the active development area also incurred roadway repair costs, highlighting the extension of UOG development’s spatial footprint beyond the active development area. An online data visualization tool is available here: