Toward a multi-objective decision support framework to support regulations of unconventional oil and gas development

Wednesday, 16 December 2015
Poster Hall (Moscone South)
Matthew Alongi1, Claire Howard2, Joseph R Kasprzyk1 and Joseph N Ryan1, (1)University of Colorado at Boulder, Department of Civil, Environmental, and Architectural Engineering, Boulder, CO, United States, (2)Northwestern University, Department of Environmental Engineering, Evanston, IL, United States
Unconventional oil and gas development (UOGD) using hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling has recently fostered an unprecedented acceleration in energy development. Regulations seek to protect environmental quality of areas surrounding UOGD, while maintaining economic benefits. One such regulation is a setback distance, which dictates the minimum proximity between an oil and gas well and an object such as a residential or commercial building, property line, or water source. In general, most setback regulations have been strongly politically motivated without a clear scientific basis for understanding the relationship between the setback distance and various performance outcomes. This presentation discusses a new decision support framework for setback regulations, as part of a large NSF-funded sustainability research network (SRN) on UOGD. The goal of the decision support framework is to integrate a wide array of scientific information from the SRN into a coherent framework that can help inform policy regarding UOGD. The decision support framework employs multiobjective evolutionary algorithm (MOEA) optimization coupled with simulation models of air quality and other performance-based outcomes on UOGD. The result of the MOEA optimization runs are quantitative tradeoff curves among different objectives. For example, one such curve could demonstrate air pollution concentrations versus estimates of energy development profits, for different levels of setback distance. Our results will also inform policy-relevant discussions surrounding UOGD such as comparing single- and multi-well pads, as well as regulations on the density of well development over a spatial area.