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Landscape Fragmentation and Water Yield with Unconventional Shale Oil and Gas Development in Ohio

Development of unconventional shale oil and gas through hydraulic fracturing (HF) has transformed the energy landscape of the United States. However, its environmental impacts remain poorly understood, especially regarding landscape fragmentation and changes to local or regional hydrology. Dr. Elizabeth Toman, a Visiting Assistant Professor in the School of Environment and Natural Resources at Ohio State University, and Dr. Kaiguang Zhao recently completed an Ohio WRC funded project titled "Landscape fragmentation and water yield with unconventional shale oil and gas development in Ohio". The goal of the project was to clarify how HF operations have been altering land cover and surface hydrology in Ohio.

To date, there has been very limited analysis on how HF disturbs the land surface. The biggest challenge for such analysis is that a typical well pad is only about 0.01 to 0.02 km2. Disturbance in land cover from activities on such a fine scale might be ignored or too difficult to be captured. Dr. Toman’s study focused on a small watershed in Eastern Ohio where 49 well pads have been constructed, and from these pads, 185 horizontal wells have been drilled since 2008. The researchers showed that disturbance of human activities at very fine scales (e.g., 30 m) can be detected by available remote sensing time series (Google Earth Engine) combined with advanced abrupt change detecting algorithms (e.g., BEAST). In the current study, other human activities were also detected, such as the construction of corridors.

If you'd like to see some other Ohio WRC research projects, visit: