Over the last decade, shale gas exploration and production have increased dramatically in the United States. 1 International interest is also growing, especially in China and parts of Eastern Europe, although every continent on earth has potential shale gas basins that could be exploited in coming years (see Figure 7 below). In fact, over the next two decades, shale gas production worldwide is projected to increase threefold. 2
On an international level, principles of responsible natural resource development have increasingly been incorporated into voluntary standards and guidance documents. The International Finance Corporation (IFC) of the World Bank, for example, has established a set of Environmental and Social Performance Standards, which are part of the organization’s approach to risk management with regard to its investments and represents the standards that its clients must meet throughout an IFC-funded project. Performance Standard #4 Community Health, Safety, and Security is particularly relevant for community health issues. Guidance notes on the implementation of Performance Standard #4 are also available.
With regard to the technologies used in hydraulic fracturing, the American Society for Testing and Materials (now ASTM International), has set out to develop an internationally-applicable set of best practices and standards. The ASTM Subcommittee D18.26 on Hydraulic Fracturing is composed of representatives of industry, environmental groups, engineers, federal regulators, state and local government, permitting bodies, and academics who are working together to develop standards and principles that will apply specifically to the technology of hydraulic fracturing. The subcommittee’s proposed and active standards can be found here.
- U.S. Department of Energy, Modern Shale Gas Development in the United States: An Update (National Energy Technology Laboratory: September 2013), Shale Gas Geographical Distribution pp. 19-46. ↩
- ATSM International. “Subcommittee D-18 on Hydraulic Fracturing,” accessed November 21, 2014. ↩