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Environ Sci Technol. 2013 May 7;47(9):4896-903. doi: 10.1021/es305162w. Epub 2013 Apr 16.

Life cycle greenhouse gas emissions and freshwater consumption of Marcellus shale gas.

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ExxonMobil Research and Engineering Company, Annandale, New Jersey 08801, USA.


We present results of a life cycle assessment (LCA) of Marcellus shale gas used for power generation. The analysis employs the most extensive data set of any LCA of shale gas to date, encompassing data from actual gas production and power generation operations. Results indicate that a typical Marcellus gas life cycle yields 466 kg CO2eq/MWh (80% confidence interval: 450-567 kg CO2eq/MWh) of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and 224 gal/MWh (80% CI: 185-305 gal/MWh) of freshwater consumption. Operations associated with hydraulic fracturing constitute only 1.2% of the life cycle GHG emissions, and 6.2% of the life cycle freshwater consumption. These results are influenced most strongly by the estimated ultimate recovery (EUR) of the well and the power plant efficiency: increase in either quantity will reduce both life cycle freshwater consumption and GHG emissions relative to power generated at the plant. We conclude by comparing the life cycle impacts of Marcellus gas and U.S. coal: The carbon footprint of Marcellus gas is 53% (80% CI: 44-61%) lower than coal, and its freshwater consumption is about 50% of coal. We conclude that substantial GHG reductions and freshwater savings may result from the replacement of coal-fired power generation with gas-fired power generation.

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