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Unconventional oil and gas: understanding and mitigating community impacts from transportation

Published: 8 Nov 2016

Research into understanding and mitigating community impacts from transportation related to unconventional oil and gas.

76 page PDF


76 page PDF


Unconventional oil and gas: understanding and mitigating community impacts from transportation
Appendix 1: Case studies

76 page PDF


Appendix 1: Case studies

Exploratory drilling and hydraulic fracturing, Preese Hall, Weeton, Lancashire

A case study was carried out to investigate the traffic impacts associated with exploratory drilling and hydraulic fracturing carried out in 2011 at Preese Hall, Weeton, Lancashire. A single well (referenced as PH1) was fractured in six stages, of which five used significant quantities of material. Planning permission for this exploratory well test was granted before significant attention was paid to shale gas activity in the UK. The limited information submitted with the planning application indicated that there would be up to 220 truck movements associated with the well test. These movements took place along a B class road past scattered dwellings for a distance of about 4 km, followed by an unclassified road for a distance of about 1 km, and finally a newly constructed site access road for a distance of about 400 metres.

There would be additional movements for construction, drilling and restoration activities, removal of drilling waste and waste water, etc. No specific information on vehicle numbers was available.

The operator, Cuadrilla, reported the following total material quantities used for fracturing of this well: [60]

  • Water: 8,399 m 3
  • Sand: 463 tonnes
  • Friction reducer: 3.7 m 3
  • Chemical tracer: 0.004 tonnes

These material quantities would have resulted in approximately 300 two-way truck movements for water transport to the site, and approximately 17 two-way truck movements for transport of sand to the site. Most wells would require more than 5 stages of hydraulic fracturing, and these estimated vehicle numbers are consistent with the estimated "high scenario" vehicle movements associated with hydraulic fracturing of 814 heavy vehicles per well.

Shale gas application at Roseacre Wood, Lancashire

An application was made to Lancashire County Council to carry out exploratory drilling and hydraulic fracturing at a site at Roseacre Wood, Lancashire. A further application was made for a similar development at a nearby site. The applications were refused by Lancashire County Council in 2015, and were the subject of planning appeals in 2016. The Department for Communities and Local Government announced that the planning inquiry would be re-opened in October 2016.

This case study focuses on the potential air quality impacts of traffic movements resulting from the proposed Roseacre Wood development during the planning application stage. Preston City Council raised concerns about the potential impacts on air quality in a nearby Air Quality Management Area ( AQMA). A Council officers' report to a Planning Committee meeting in June 2015 commented that " … the consequences of routeing HGV construction traffic from the A6 via Broughton and the B5269 would have unacceptable adverse traffic and air pollution impacts conflicting with the requirements of APLP Policy T19 and PPLP Policy ST2, Core Strategy Policies 2, 3 and 30 and the Framework." Specifically, the report drew attention to potential air quality impacts on an Air Quality Management Area ( AQMA) designated by Preston City Council which covers the A6 Garstang Road in Broughton, referred to as " AQMA 3". AQMA 3 was designated on the basis of high measured levels of nitrogen dioxide.

This was considered by Ricardo Energy & Environment on behalf of Lancaster County Council. The forecast traffic and associated air quality impact was assessed in the context of guidance published by the Institute of Air Quality Management ( IAQM). [61] This indicates that a development can be considered as having an insignificant impact on air quality if it is forecast to result in:

  • A change of light duty vehicle flows of less than 100 vehicles per day (annual average) within or adjacent to an AQMA
  • A change of heavy duty vehicle flows of less than 25 vehicles per day (annual average) within or adjacent to an AQMA

If these criteria are exceeded, the IAQM guidance advises that an Air Quality Assessment should be carried out. In the case of the proposed development, it was found that these criteria would not be exceeded, and on the basis of the IAQM guidance, the impacts can be considered as having an insignificant effect. This preliminary evaluation was checked using the Department of Transport Design Manual for Roads and Bridges ( DMRB) screening methodology. This demonstrated that the proposed development would to result in an increase of 0.12% in levels of nitrogen dioxide. Such a change is below the range of impacts considered in the IAQM guidance, and would not be significant in the context of other influences on air quality, or detectable by any practicable means. For example, the change is about one hundredth of the variability in measured nitrogen dioxide levels within AQMA 3 from year to year. It was concluded that the proposed development would have an insignificant effect on air quality in Preston City Council's Air Quality Management Area 3 at Broughton.

Letham Moss Coalbed Methane Sites

This case study concerns a 14 well coal bed methane production development at Letham Moss Falkirk. The development, which was initially refused approval (and is now subject to a sisted appeal), had proposed to undertake drilling, well site establishment at 14 locations, inter-site connection services, site access tracks, a gas delivery and water treatment facility, ancillary facilities, infrastructure and associated water outfall point. It is important to note that the inter-site connection services would remove the need for water to be transported to the site on road once it is operational.

The Traffic and Transport chapter of the submitted ES states that the site preparation phase would generate the highest number of traffic movements and that site preparation activities would not occur at all 14 sites simultaneously. Instead it was assumed that drilling works would be undertaken at two sites at a time while site preparation works would be ongoing at a couple of nearby sites. It is also assumed for the worst case scenario that the construction of the Gas Delivery and Water Treatment Facility ( GDWTF) would be on-going at the site.

The ES predicts a worst case total of around 158 vehicle movements per day ( HGV and construction worker transport). Of this total, 68 movements would be HGVs associated with site preparation, 60 HGVs / LGVs associated with drilling operations and 30 HGVs/ LGVs associated with the construction of the GDWTF.

These predicted traffic movements were then used to assess the level of impact that the proposed development would have on the local road network. The assessment found that on all the assessed roads the percentage increase was lower than 30% and therefore lower than the threshold stated in Rule 1 of the IEA guidelines. It also found that once the site preparation and drilling is complete, the number of movements would reduce to approximately 6 vehicle movements per day. Hence, the higher level of impact predicted was considered to be only a temporary and not a permanent effect.

In addition, the access routes to the site were not considered to be 'specifically sensitive areas' and therefore the temporary increase in traffic was not predicted to cause a significant effect when tested against Rule 2 of the IEA's document. Therefore, no further detailed assessment of environmental effects associated with increased traffic was considered to be warranted in line with the available guidance.

Although the traffic effects of the proposed development were not predicted to cause any significant environmental effects, a number of mitigation measures were proposed within the ES:

  • Construction of accesses to each site that respect prevailing roads standards and ensure adequate visibility and turning areas;
  • Extension of the Traffic Management Plan ( TMP) in operation at the existing well sites to encompass the new sites thus ensuring that robust procedures are in place to manage traffic to and from the new sites.

The ES does however consider the predicted effects of the development on public access. The ES provides a list of core paths in the area which will be affected by the proposed development and to what degree the development will affect them. The ES does however state that no permanent well sites or the GDWTF will physically encroach on any core paths. In terms of recreational access elsewhere around the development the ES states that apart from the areas taken up by permanent well sites and the GDWTF, there will be no loss of land for recreational use.

In its assessment of significance of the impact on public access, the ES states that prior to any mitigation, assuming a high user sensitivity and a moderate magnitude of effect during construction, the significance would be moderate to high in the short term period due to conflicts with users of the core paths. In the longer term, when vehicle access to the sites is much lower, the magnitude of effect would reduce to low, resulting in a slight or negligible adverse significance.

With regards to mitigation for public access, the ES states that the TMP would require site traffic to give priority to any recreational users of the core paths or users of access tracks or other land under the Land Reform Act. For example, horse riders, cyclists or pedestrians using any access track or the road network would be considered as a priority user, and would be provided with sufficient room by any overtaking Dart vehicles, or allowed to pass before a Dart vehicle if overtaking was not possible.

The ES also states that where possible, a standoff between any developed access track and field boundaries, or other "informal" tracks will be maintained so they will remain available for use during construction and avoid conflict with vehicle use. The ES then states that with these mitigation measures in place, the short term significance (during drilling) would reduce from "moderate to high", to "minor to moderate" (high user sensitivity but minor impact magnitude).

The ES does not consider the noise and vibration impact of traffic generated by the development but does consider the air quality and dust impact.

This assessment takes into consideration the emissions created by site generated traffic as well as the nuisance dust effects from vehicles. With regards to emissions, the ES states that the air quality impact of NOx and other combustible emissions produced by vehicles servicing the sites during construction is considered negligible. With regards to nuisance dust effects, the effect is also considered slight or negligible. However, some mitigation measures for dust are proposed. These include:

  • All vehicles to switch off engines - no idling vehicles;
  • Effective vehicle cleaning and specific fixed wheel washing on leaving site and dampening down of haul routes;
  • All loads entering and leaving site to be covered;
  • No site runoff of water or mud;
  • On-road vehicles to comply with set emission standards; and
  • All non-road mobile machinery to use ultra-low sulphur tax exempt diesel where available and be fitted with appropriate exhaust after treatment.

On review of the ES, it was clear that the proposed development generated a modest volume of traffic which only had a very localised impact which did not trigger a detailed assessment of environmental effects associated with increased traffic. It would appear that the key mitigation on this project was the commitment to deliver water to the site by means of mains connections which meant that there would be no requirement for water deliveries by road.

Consent was not granted for this development but Stirling Council recommended that the following conditions should be attached to any consent issued:

  • Provision of a road traffic management plan
  • Undertaking of a road condition survey and undertaking of repair work should deterioration occur as a result of increased traffic
  • Enter into a legal agreement (as per Section 96 of the Roads (Scotland) Act 1984) to allow the Council to recover the cost of repairing roads.

Earlseat Windfarm

This case study is a 9 turbine windfarm, located at Earlseat Farm, Kirkcaldy (Planning No. 10/03539/ EIA), which was consented in 2012 and constructed in 2014. No post development data is available, and consequently this case study reviews the information provided as part of the EIA Process.

The ES breaks down the traffic impact into three sections, construction effects, operational effects and decommissioning effects.

The ES estimated that the windfarm would increase traffic flows (up to 92 two-way HGVs per day) during the construction phase and this was identified as the worst-case scenario. The ES also considered site construction worker movements and identified that there would be up to 40 two-way construction worker movements per day during the construction stage of the development.

The assessment of the environmental effects associated with construction traffic concluded that the impacts on the road network would be "negligible" in terms of significance and would have no effect on the operation of the local road network. The ES also undertook a sensitivity test to identify the cumulative impact should the operations at a nearby mining operation ('Wellsgreeen OCCS' which was at planning application stage at the time the ES was written) occur at the same time as the construction of the windfarm. The ES found that for this worst case scenario, the impact at all assessment points would be less than 1% of baseline traffic flows. The predicted levels of trip generation were therefore below the threshold of both Rule 1 and Rule 2 of the IEA guidelines and therefore no further assessment under either of the IEA documents rules is warranted.

During the operational phase of the development, the ES did not envisage that there would be any permanent staff on the site and that any traffic movements would be related to maintenance. The ES states that these movements would have a "negligible" effect on the local highway network. The ES therefore concluded that it was not necessary to assess the environmental impacts of traffic generated by the operational phase of the windfarm.

The ES states that the levels of traffic associated with decommissioning are anticipated to be lower than those required during construction and that traffic managements procedures would be agreed with Fife Council at the appropriate time. No further assessment of decommissioning effects was therefore undertaken.

With regard to the mitigation of traffic and abnormal load impacts, a Traffic Management Plan was proposed which would include the following:

  • Approved access routes and any necessary restrictions including left turn only restrictions for HGVs at the site access;
  • Temporary signage in the vicinity of the site warning of construction traffic;
  • Temporary signage warning other users of abnormal load turbine movements;
  • Arrangements with Police for escort of abnormal loads from the Port of Entry;
  • A warning system to identify the site entrance on Standing Stane Road will be established;
  • Ground preparation including protection of services and lowering of pavements;
  • Arrangements for road maintenance and cleaning;
  • Timing of deliveries - construction hours will be outwith peak traffic hours, subject to agreement with Fife Council;
  • Arrangements for parking restrictions along access route if required; and
  • Wheel cleaning arrangements.

The ES carried out an assessment of the impact of the construction traffic on noise which found that the largest predicted increase would be 0.2 dB which was deemed to be insignificant. The ES also states that traffic noise associated with the proposed Wellsgreen OCCS, at the same time as Earlseat construction will result in a negligible increase in noise levels, as a result of traffic from the two developments.

There is no assessment of air quality, but it would have been reasonable for any assessment of air quality to have been scoped out during the preliminary stages of the EIS process.

The following conditions relevant to road transportation were attached to the consent by Fife Council:

  • Preparation of a Traffic Management Plan
  • Creation of a turning area at the site to ensure that vehicles accessing and egressing the site do so in forward gear
  • Off-street parking to be provided on site to prevent overspill onto surrounding road network
  • Wheel cleaning to be provided at site entrance to prevent mud and debris from being deposited onto road network
  • Core paths crossing the site to be maintained

The windfarm case study is similar to the Coal Bed Methane development in terms of traffic generation and the type of mitigation required.

Rusha Surface Mine

This case study is a 154ha open cast coal mine at Rusha Farm, West Lothian (Planning No. LIVE/1199/M/07), which was consented in 2010 and began extraction in 2012. No post development data is available, and consequently this case study reviews the information provided as part of the EIA Process. This development was chosen for comparison in view of the nature of the development and the Central Scotland location.

The Traffic and Transport section of the ES states that for assessment purposes, a maximum output of 10,000 tonnes per week (126 HGV movements per day) is assumed. However, the average production is likely to be 6000 tonnes per week (resulting in 76 vehicle movements per day). The ES references the TA which was produced to support the development which concludes that the 12 vehicles per hour generated by the site will give rise to increases of traffic flows between 1.2% and 9.8% of baseline flows.

The predicted levels of trip generation for the mine were therefore below the thresholds of both Rule 1 and Rule 2 (albeit marginally) of the IEA guidelines and therefore no further assessment under either of the IEA document rules is warranted.

The ES suggests that the scale of additional traffic would not be expected to have an adverse effect on road safety for the following reasons:

  • Road accidents are multifactorial events in which vehicle condition, driver experience and behaviour, road conditions, weather and lighting all contribute;
  • Heavy vehicles are not involved disproportionally in accidents on the routes examined;
  • The characteristics of heavy vehicles make them less likely to be involved in accidents than other vehicle categories.

The ES also notes that the Environmental Management Plan ( EMP) will be adhered to and site specific instructions will be applied to drivers and HGV routes in order to minimise impacts in built up areas that vehicles would pass through in order to access the site.

The ES does not discuss the impact of noise, air quality or dust relating to traffic. However, the EMP does provide some commentary on dust mitigation, which is particularly relevant for a mining activity. The EMP states that the access road at the site entrance will be provided with a tarmac surface which will be regularly cleaned to ensure that dust and mud do not accumulate. The EMP also states that a wheel wash will be provided at the site which all HGVs will be instructed to use before leaving the site.

The following conditions relevant to road transportation were attached to the planning consent issued by West Lothian Council:

  • Measures to be taken to prevent material being deposited on external road network by transport vehicles
  • Wheel cleaning to be provided at site entrance to prevent mud and debris from being deposited onto road network
  • First part of site access road to be finished in tarmac to prevent mud and debris being deposited onto local road network
  • Preparation of an Environmental Management Plan

Tomfyne Quarry

This case study is a 350,000 tonnes per annum quarry at Tomfyne Farm, North Lanarkshire (Planning No. 12/00729/FUL). The application is "minded to grant" subject to the signing of a Section 75 agreement. This case study reviews the information provided as part of the EIA Process.

The Traffic and Transport section of the ES states that following characteristics are associated with the proposed development at Tomfyne:

  • The removal of material from the site will generally be via 20 tonne tipper lorries;
  • Operations at the site would be Monday to Saturday;
  • Working hours would likely be 0700-1900 Monday to Friday and 0700-1200 on Saturdays;

The Traffic and Transport section also sets out the trip generation potential of the proposed development. It is anticipated that the development would generate approximately 13 two-way HGV movements per hour with an additional 10 two-way staff vehicle movements in the AM and PM peak periods. The traffic impacts assessment which was carried out in the ES indicates that the impact of development generated traffic will be less than 5% at all remote junctions and as such no further capacity or operational assessments have been undertaken in line with Rule 1 and Rule 2 of the IEA guidelines.

The ES provides a list of potential measures to reduce the traffic related impacts of the proposed development which include:

Topic Mitigation Measures
Measures to Reduce Dust and Dirt on External Road Network
  • A 567m section of the site access road from the site entrance to the wheel wash facility will be surfaced with asphalt.
  • A wheel washing facility will be installed on site, used to clean the wheels of vehicles as and when required to prevent dirt / mud from being dragged out onto the external road network.
  • All vehicles exiting the site will have loads covered with sheeting to ensure that dust is kept to a minimum.
  • The access road to the site shall be kept free of dust and dirt by means of a mechanical sweeper which shall be deployed as and when necessary.
Measures to Reduce Traffic Impact
  • Designated HGV routes to the site will also be established so that heavy vehicles travelling to and from the site are kept to main routes. This will ensure that HGVs are kept away from sensitive areas and the impact on the general public is minimised.
Speed Limit
  • It is proposed to impose a 20mph reduced speed limit for all traffic on the access road which will be reinforced by speed limit signs along the length of the route.
External Signage
  • External signage will be erected on the local road network in the vicinity of the development site to warn people of quarry activities and associated vehicles turning at the access. The purpose of such signage is to provide driver information and to maintain road safety in the proximity of the site access.
Workforce Travel
  • The operator of the site will seek to minimise workforce traffic movements through the promotion of shared transport arrangements for site operatives.
  • Car parking for the workforce will be provided entirely within the confines of the site boundary so that there is no impact on existing road users.
Staff Induction
  • All permanent site staff will be informed about traffic management arrangements and procedures via site induction literature

The Noise Chapter of the ES states that the change in road traffic noise level would be regarded as negligible and that any corresponding change in airborne variation would be negligible.

North Lanarkshire Council proposed a number of conditions relating to traffic and transport as part of their Committee Report. These conditions relate to the following:

  • The provision of a Transport Management Plan which will include: HGV routes, speed limits and drivers code of conduct;
  • Wheel washing equipment / monitoring of site access to prevent damage to the public road;

UOG development at rural sites in Western North Dakota

A review of transportation impacts associated with UOG development at rural sites in Western North Dakota was carried out by the Upper Great Plains Transportation Institute at North Dakota State University. [9] North Dakota experienced a seven-fold increase in oil and gas production between 2004 and 2011. This was achieved partly by more than doubling the average daily production per well over this period.

It was estimated that each well resulted in approximately 2,300 drilling-related truck trips, broken down as follows:

  • Water (Fresh) 450 loaded 900 total
  • Water (Waste) 225 loaded 450 total
  • Frac Tanks 115 loaded 230 total
  • Sand 100 loaded 200 total
  • Scoria/Gravel 80 loaded 160 total
  • Rig Equipment 65 loaded 130 total
  • Drilling Mud 50 loaded 100 total
  • Cement 20 loaded 40 total
  • Pipe 15 loaded 30 total
  • Other 30 loaded 60 total

A key source of traffic movements has been the requirement for collection of oil by truck to pipeline or rail transfer location. Oil pipeline connections are available for wells in part of the state where hydrocarbon production is well established, but trucks are needed for collection of oil in the majority of the state.

The State legislature has identified that ongoing truck movements could potentially result in significant highway damage, and has set studies in motion to understand the traffic movements associated with UOG development in North Dakota and the associated highway maintenance costs. It is also important to consider safety issues, emergency response, road design and capacity, and ensuring proper enforcement.

UOG development at urban sites in Tarrant and Johnson Counties, Fort Worth, Texas

The United States Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative has published a short case study describing UOG production in Tarrant and Johnson Counties, Fort Worth, Texas. [10] The case study is a multi-stakeholder initiative, designed to illustrate how mineral resources are managed in practice. Tarrant County covers the majority of Fort Worth, a city with a population of approximately 800,000. Johnson County covers the southern part of Fort Worth, and extends southwards to include the smaller cities of Cleburne and Alvarado.

The case study highlights that the benefits of extraction comes with associated costs for governmental institutions, and states:

"During well construction and drilling, heavy truck traffic causes wear on roads and bridges that can significantly reduce their service life. This problem is particularly pronounced on roadways that were not originally designed to support industrial traffic. According to the Texas Department of Transportation ( DOT), the volume of truck traffic required to bring one gas well into production is equivalent to the impact of approximately eight million cars; truck traffic required to maintain that well is equivalent to another two million cars. Constructing such a well reduces highway service life by as much as 53%."

The equivalence figures referred to are the estimated numbers of cars which would have an equivalent impact on highway damage to the calculated truck movements. The case study did not go beyond this to consider other community impacts.

The main type of road damage was found to be rutting. Rig traffic, construction traffic, and removal of wastewater were estimated to result in a reduction in road service life of approximately 5.6%, 29%, and 16% respectively. [62] A separate study highlighted four potential means of managing highway maintenance issues in Texas: [63]

  • A proactive, performance-based approach whereby roads are strengthened prior to energy development.
  • A reactive, performance-based approach whereby a fee for road maintenance costs is estimated after damage has been caused.
  • A fee-based structure which is not linked to specific roadway deterioration.
  • A policy approach, in which counties are empowered to promote transportation infrastructure projects in areas affected by oil and gas production activities.

A task force is being convened by The Academy of Medicine, Engineering and Science of Texas ( TAMEST) to examine the environmental and community impacts of shale oil and gas development in Texas. The group will review existing scientific research and findings regarding the effects of shale oil and gas development in Texas, focusing on seismicity, land resources, water, air, transportation and community impacts. This initiative is due to be launched on 6 October 2016.