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Environmental risk assessments are required to understand the risks associated with using hydraulic fracturing (HF) solutions and to give decision support for selecting the appropriate technology and implementing risk-reduction measures. Based on this evaluation, this article includes a review of possibly applicable environmental/ecological risk assessment (ERA) guidelines and a first proposal for an ERA framework for understanding the ecological implications of HF remedies. We first choose the most significant factors for conducting an ERA of HF solutions from the established guidelines. The suggested ERA framework for generated water discharges, drilling discharges, and emissions to air from HF solutions is then built using these elements, which is the primary goal of the current study. In addition, the focus is on identifying knowledge gaps for conducting ERA of HF procedures. Finally, some critical issues in using ERA methodologies for novel HF technologies are examined in depth, including uncertainty in the ERA due to a lack of data and risk aggregation from various environmental consequences. Relevant stakeholders should be able to use the frameworks proposed in this study to assess ecological risk from using Hydraulic Fracturing solutions.


Hydraulic fracturing (HF) is a gas extraction technique in which natural gas wells are pumped with high-pressure Water, sand, and chemicals to release otherwise difficult-to-extract gas, such as that trapped in shale and tight sand deposits. This paper summarizes the approaches and applications. HF is viewed as a domestic energy source and a transition from dirtier fuels such as coal to renewable resources. At the same time, HF supporters tout the potential economic benefits of unconventional shale gas production, and several human and environmental risks have been found. Among the dangers are ground and surface water contamination, air quality, climate change impacts, seismic stability, HF chemical toxicities, increased noise and traffic, habitat degradation and fragmentation, and human health concerns. In assessing these risks, a recurrent complaint is the absence of evidence. The study’s primary focus is on environmental effects. Still, the overlap of many of these topics and a general lack of knowledge warrants the inclusion of other relevant issues.


It was clear that a thorough examination of the cause–effect linkages between possible stressors and their effects on standard endpoints had not been carried out. In a recent study, Burton et al. (2014) determined that data were insufficient to conduct an ecological risk assessment, even without risk assessment. Our literature review and Burton et al. (2014) ‘s conclusion attest to the lack of research programs that explains causal linkages. We present a preliminary cause–effect conceptual model as a jumping-off point for future studies on HF’s impact and long-term viability. The following sections provide an overview of this effort.

Conceptual Model and Risk Assessment

An ecological risk assessment begins with defining a problem (USEPA, 1998). The conceptual model is an essential part of this process. A causal network links the stressors or actions of interest in a risk assessment to the endpoints that drive the decision-making process in the conceptual model. Developing a conceptual model and evaluating cause–effect for ecological risk assessment has proven helpful in organizing data and providing an environmental risk assessment to aid decision-making. The cause–effect pathway is used as an organizational principle in this study to collect and integrate the various articles describing the potential impacts of HF. We will use the core framework of the relative risk model for our purposes. (Landis and Wiegers, 2005),

The first step is to list all the probable stress sources for the activity. In this case, we will look at the complete HF site process, from discovery to drilling to extraction to logistics and eventual closure. The stressors box contains all potential stressors that may arise due to the process. This item will include not just the drilling materials and chemicals but also the changes to the landscape due to having multiple healthy sites adjacent to the support roads. Both the spatial location of the sources and the exposure of the stressors, as well as the types of settings, are represented by the habitat box. The stressors’ exposure to the endpoints is described in the habitat segment. HF is a land-based enterprise that can operate alongside various aquatic habitats. In some areas, groundwater can mix with surface water and become contaminated. Long-range conveyance is possible with atmospheric releases, expanding the variety of settings that might be considered. The impacts box can be toxicological, including landscape fragmentation, water diversion, total suspended solids increase, or habitat degradation for a rare or endangered species. The effect box at the conclusion lists the endpoints considered in the decision-making process and the potential change caused by the HF operation. The entire process works best when it is related to a specific activity and area and a set of regulatory criteria.

After that, data from various sources are used to build the cause–effect model. For various reasons, including dependability and relevance, site-specific data is desirable. This broader evaluation, on the other hand, is not bound to a specific location and must concentrate on the published literature. We examined the literature as usual, looking for things like the study’s relevance, the quality of the data, the tools used in the analysis, and where the report fits into our cause–effect model. However, for several contentious problems, it has been proved that a different form of examination is required.

Normative Science and Bending Science

When a policy preference or aim is integrated into Science, it becomes normative Science. Concepts like “ecological health” and “sustainability,” which might be regarded as “stealth policy advocacy,” are examples of this (Lackey, 2004). When Science is purposefully distorted to achieve a predetermined policy goal, it is called bent Science. This bending can take many forms, from sponsoring research with a predetermined policy goal to targeting scientists who report unfavorable findings (McGarity & Wagner, 2008). The notions of bending and normative Science have become widely established in scientific-policy interaction. From cigarette smoke to climate change, these issues have been well documented. In reaction to denials viewpoints on climate change, Oreskes (2013) observes, “The social and intellectual question becomes, why exactly would someone wish to do that?”

McGarity (2003) states that “risk producing companies” frequently use bending to shift blame and liabilities 2003 report on the manipulation of Science. Economic considerations are the motivating force in these circumstances. In a psychological study, Lewandowsky et al. (2013) discovered a link between the principle of free markets, conspiracy thinking, and rejection of climate change and, to a lesser extent, other sciences in a psychological study. On the other hand, McGarity and Wagner (2008) indicate that bending is not limited to industry and political conservatives but also occurs in federal agencies, public and environmental special interests, and trial lawyers. According to McGarity and Wagner (2008), advocates are more likely to bend if they perceive the costs of negative scientific results are more significant than those of undermining research and if they have adequate resources to mount the intended attacks. Given this analysis, it is reasonable to predict instances of scientific bending on both sides of a problematic policy issue, given that both sides have adequate resources.

Scientists know that bending Science is a problem because it can potentially distort scientific literature and undermine public trust in Science. (McGarity and Wagner, 2008). Because of its growing importance, public awareness, and the number of potential interest groups, HF is an excellent case study for determining the prevalence of bending. To that purpose, we undertook a study of peer- and non-peer-reviewed literature on the environmental consequences of HF and a search for risk assessments to examine the use of decision-making tools.

Evaluation Methods (Literature Search)

In the peer-reviewed and non-peer-reviewed literature, we searched the literature, connected the outcomes to the cause–effect pathway, and assessed the prevalence of bending. The “Search Term Box” section contains the search terms and databases to locate relevant material. We chose publications based on their relevance to HF’s environmental consequences and timeliness in presenting the most up-to-date information.

The literature was then sorted to see which parts of the causal pathway the investigation could shed light on. This survey yielded potential endpoints, which were collated. Many publications explored and analyzed uncertainty in the datasets and our knowledge of cause-effect interactions. Finally, the data from these evaluations were sorted into the bins we constructed in our initial causal diagram.

The criteria for examining data were based on McGarity and Wagner’s (2008) tactics for bending Science and Oreskes and Conway’s indicators of science tampering (2010). Oreskes proposed using literature searches to evaluate scientific consensus and research (2004b). Six ways for bending Science are detailed by McGarity and Wagner (2008) and are summarized subsequently.

  1. Shaping Science is a study commissioned by a third party interested in a specific outcome.
  2. Hiding Science – preventing unwanted scientific findings from being
  3. Attacking science — unjustified attacks on controversial
  4. Harassing scientists with unfavorable results through bogus claims of misbehavior, subpoenas or depositions, and data sharing
  5. Packaging science — commissioning review articles or hand-picked panels to create the appearance of agreement or present findings in the best possible
  6. Spinning Science — entails portraying Science in a particular light to achieve economic or ideological aims rather than accurately communicating the

We employed these procedures to qualitatively analyze each item of the literature surveyed, except (4), where a literature search alone was insufficient to appraise. Unlike Oreskes (2004b), who relied solely on abstracts, each piece of literature’s complete body of the text was carefully read, funding sources were probed, and conclusions were recorded to thoroughly look for signs of bending. Oreskes and Conway (2010) summarized the evidence that Science had been tampered with or bent into seven discrete criteria, which were then applied to a binary logic frame to produce a result for each piece of literature, which could be used to make comparisons the literature and estimate the risk of bending.


Drilling, cementing, well building and completion, well clean-up, hydraulic fracturing, and waste treatment are all tasks that require industrial chemicals in shale, tight, and deep coal gas operations. Chemical composition and concentration will be determined by site-specific factors such as formation geology and mineralogy, environmental factors such as temperature and pressure, and the need to preserve well integrity and production. If not properly controlled or managed, the managed use or accidental release of chemicals (industrial and geogenic (natural)) may have significant effects on local and regional water quality (surface water and groundwater) and water-dependent ecosystems.

Companies (in consultation with government agencies) implement an ERA process for gas operations that includes identifying potential hazards associated with (e.g., chemical transport and storage, hydraulic fracturing fluid injection, flow back and produced water storage), determining the likelihood and consequence of a risk event occurring, identifying and evaluating control and mitigation measures (e.g., what controls are in place or need to be in place to address the identified hazards), and determining the likelihood and consequence of a risk event occurring.

Hydraulic fracturing chemicals

Hydraulic fracturing injects high-pressure fluids with chemical additives into target formations to fracture the rock and produce high-conductivity gas flow routes to the well. Table 1 lists common chemical additives in hydraulic fracturing fluids used in shale, tight, and deep coal gas operations.

Chemical Additive Purpose


Before hydraulic fracturing stimulation, reremoveineral scales and deposits and clean the wellbore; dissolves minerals and create cracks in formations.
Buffer/acid Maintains the efficacy of fluid components and iron control by adjusting the


Biocide Bacterial growth is prevented or limited, which can lead to blockage, undesired gas production, and corrosion.
Clay stabilizer Prevents structures from expanding or moving.
Cross-linking agent It is used to link polymers or a gelling agent to promote cohesion, adhesion, and heat stability and preserve fluid viscosity.
Inhibitor mineral scales and deposits Prevents material build-up on the sides of suitable casings and surface equipment; iron control agent to avoid oxides of metal, such as iron oxides

and hydroxides from precipitating.

Friction reducer Friction in the hydraulic fracturing fluid is reduced.
Corrosion inhibitor Protects the wellbore and pipe work from corrosion.
Surfactant Increases matrix penetration and aids in matrix recovery.

Prop pant

Removes mineral scale and deposit and cleans the wellbore before hydraulic fracturing stimulation; dissolves minerals and generates fissures in formations.
Gelling agent/viscosities Adjusts the pH to maintain the efficacy of fluid components and iron control.
Breaker/deviscosifier Bacterial growth is inhibited or restricted, reducing the risk of blockage, unwanted gas production, and corrosion.

In general, Water makes up the majority of hydraulic fracturing fluid (>97%), with proppant (e.g., sand) and chemical additives making up lesser quantities (Figure 2).

To assess healthy integrity and optimize gas production, well pressure and the amount of hydraulic fracturing fluids supplied and recovered are frequently monitored in wells during stimulation. Flow back and produced Water and liquid from the gas separator are often sent to storage locations/ponds/tanks (above or below ground), with specifications based on the healthy site’s environmental conditions and requirements. The stored wastewater could be treated on-site (e.g., reverse osmosis); (ii) reused or recycled on-site (e.g., dust suppression), depending on the water quality, environmental circumstances, and treatment/management costs. (iii) used for beneficial purposes by the company or a third party (e.g., irrigation pending necessary approvals and fit for purpose); (iv) evaporated on-site in lakes to solid waste or marinade for controlled storage; (v) re-injected into deep aquifers (pending necessary approvals); or (vi) removed and disposed of off-site at an approved diagnosis facility.

Current Geopolitical Impact of the Russian Invasion of Ukraine

Until February 24, 2022, the EU was chastised for prioritizing instruments over strategy and failing to employ its complete toolkit for geopolitical leverage. The war in Ukraine has served as a harsh wake-up call for the European Union. The union’s past as a peace initiative must not preclude it from acting strategically, resulting in a geopolitical awakening. Brussels delivered in a matter of days: the EU imposed five packages of progressively harsh sanctions against Russia in less than a week, with repercussions that would most likely be felt in member states, contributing to the Russian economy’s meltdown. This trend is set to accelerate in the coming years as a slew of European gas and oil corporations, including BP, Shell, and Equinor, are pulling the plug on their Russian investments, putting pressure on the Kremlin’s energy sector. The United States and European allies are discussing blocking Russian oil and gas imports, demonstrating the EU’s determination to use its entire economic weight as a coercive instrument against Russia. Though a settlement has yet to be reached, the debate is noteworthy in that it demonstrates that the EU is willing to pay the price of soaring energy prices in exchange for geopolitical action.

On the inward-looking front, the EU has begun to address the issues that directly affect European societies. The Temporary Protection Directive, created in 2001 but never utilized, was activated by policymakers in Brussels. This emergency mechanism protects many Ukrainian refugees, including rights to residence, access to the job market, medical aid, and education. The EU has also announced a significant package of humanitarian and financial assistance to help people in Ukraine directly. Parallel to this, the EU has stopped Russian news sites Russia Today and Sputnik. The Commission’s East StratCom Task Force has increased its efforts to combat Russian disinformation.

Most importantly, the EU is establishing itself as a security player on the geopolitical chessboard by releasing the European Peace Facility, a project launched in July 2021 to fill financial gaps in the EU’s Common Security and Defense Policy and provide bilateral military and defense assistance to partner Countries. The instrument will provide €500 million to Ukraine to help it acquire weaponry, including lethal weapons. This geopolitical awakening is taking place all across the world, not just in Brussels. After years of military hesitancy, Germany announced a special fund of €100 billion for defense spending over the next four years and a permanent commitment to more than 2% of annual defense spending. Furthermore, Sweden announced that it would increase defense spending, Denmark committed to NATO’s two percent goal, Romania and Latvia plan to increase defense spending to 2.5 percent of GDP by 2023, Poland plans to increase spending to three percent by 2023, and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to announce a defense budget increase by the end of March.


When assessing environmental risks, ambiguity is an essential factor to consider. It is a natural part of any ecological system, and it has two primary causes: a lack of ecological data or the system’s randomness and fluctuation. Environmental parameters used in risk assessment should be defined with this in mind. They do not; however, all behave similarly or have the same level of uncertainty. Probability theory and fuzzy logic are the two basic approaches to uncertainty. Both methods have been used in the literature, and a combination of the two is beginning to gain traction. Because some parameters are better described using PDFs, while others, depending on linguistic phrases, are better expressed with fuzzy numbers, this hybrid technique is based on the nature of the parameters.

The most crucial output of risk assessment is the ability to provide the foundation for a decision-making process. Instead of brutal statistics or calculations, the results of such decisions should be given to environmental managers and the general public in straightforward language and by how humans think.

Several research examining risk assessments indicate insufficient information to do a risk assessment (Adgate et al., 2014; New York State Department of Health, 2014). Burton et al. (2014) also argue that the level of uncertainty in risk assessment could be better. However, because risk assessments can integrate estimations, expert elicitation, and other methodologies, they can be undertaken even when there are significant data gaps. Establishing that the uncertainty is too great to guide decision-making is only possible once a risk assessment is completed. Although a high degree of confidence is essential for decision-making, this does not preclude risk assessments. Sensitivity analysis, for example, can help identify the variables crucial to the risk assessment’s outcome. Given this, the pervasive lack of risk assessments (especially ecological risk assessments) and risk assessments in this field could be attributed to issues other than uncertainties.

Quantitative risk evaluations for HF are conducted for a variety of reasons. First and foremost, the research and monitoring program must be guided by specific study questions. Identifying precise hypotheses about endpoints at risk and aIdentifyingcular uncertainty is a critical re and risk assessment. Even in the face of considerable uncertainty, the projected risk can help decision-makers make preliminary policy decisions until the tensions are resolved. Finally, a robust conceptual model can serve as a foundation for articulating in detail what is known, the uncertainties associated with each, and providing a quantitative representation of the Science around the risk of HF.


 Burton et al., 2014. Hydraulic “franking”: are surface water impacts an ecological concern? Environ. Toxicol. Chem. 33 (8), 1679–1689.

USEPA, 1998. EPA. Guidelines for Ecological Risk Assessment. EPA/630/R095/002F. Risk Assessment Forum. Washington, DC.

Landis, W. and Wiegers, K., Chapter 2 Introduction to the regional risk assessment using the relative risk model. In: Landis, W.G. (Ed.), Regional Scale Ecological Risk Assessment Using the Relative Risk Model. CRC Press Boca Raton, pp. 11–36.

Lackey, R., 2004. Normative science. Fisheries 29 (7), 38–39.

McGarity, O. and Wagner, E., 2008. Bending Science: How Special Interest Corrupt Public Health Research. Harvard University Press, Cambridge (MA), USA.

Oreskes, N., 2013. On the “reality” and reality of anthropogenic climate change. Climate Change 119, 559–560.

Lewandowsky, S. Oberauer, K. and Gignac, G.E., 2013. NASA faked the moon landing—therefore, (climate) science is a hoax: an anatomy of the motivated rejection of science. Psychology. Sci. 24 (5), 622–633.

Oreskes, N. and Conway, M., 2010. Merchants of Doubt. Bloomsbury Press, New York (NY), USA. Oreskes, N., 2004b. The scientific consensus on climate change. Science 306, 1686.

Adgate, L. Goldstein, D. and McKenzie, M., 2014. Potential public health hazards, exposures, and health effects from unconventional natural gas development. Environ. Sci. Technol. 48 (15), 8307–8320.


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Select an environmental risk that occurs in nature and research information about its release, exposure scenarios, and health effects. The specific data in each analysis area will depend on your chosen environmental risk. Write at least one paragraph for each analysis:

Release Analysis: Identify the contaminant and how it is released, measured, or detected. Include units of measurement, setting for the release, and scientific fields related to the contamination or measurement.
Exposure Analysis: Analyze the risk of exposure, such as settings in which people encounter the risk or plausible scenarios in which exposure occurs.
Health Effects Analysis: Estimate the risks to human health, including short and long-term effects, demographic groups at risk, and health effects on individuals and populations.
Use 1-2 sources to support your writing. Choose sources that are credible, relevant, and appropriate. Cite each source listed on your source page at least one time within your assignment. For help with research, writing, and citation, access the library or review library guides.

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