Class Year


Document Type

Student Research Paper

Date of Creation

Spring 2016

Department 1

Environmental Studies


Hydraulic fracturing is the process of extracting natural gas from layers of shale rock beneath the surface of the Earth. The largest source of natural gas in the US is the Marcellus Shale, largely located in Pennsylvania, and it is believed to hold about 141 trillion cubic feet of natural gas in its shale deposits. My study examined the impacts of well sites on land cover and land use, the viewshed, and the audioshed. To study the effect of wellpads on land use and land cover, we overlaid a layer of wellpads over land cover data as well as a layer of Pennsylvania natural resources. To study the visual and sound impacts of wellpads and compressor stations, we generated viewsheds and audiosheds and then calculated the percent of land, road, and trails impacted within different environment types. We found that the majority of producing wells are currently found in forested areas and within 1320 feet of a stream or wetland. However, we found that there is also seemingly a bias against placing wellpads near wetland areas. Additionally, rural land cover areas were found to have a disproportionate number of wellpads in relation to their area within the Marcellus shale region. Rural environments were also found to be impacted the highest in regards to the viewshed, having over 20% of the tile within the fracking viewshed for tiles with at least 2 wellpads. In regards to noise impacts, high road density areas and state forest areas were found to have similar percentages within the audioshed for tiles with at least one compressor station. So overall, in areas with at least 2 wellpads, rural areas have the most potential impacts due to fracking for both land cover and land use as well as the viewshed.


Environmental Studies Senior Honors Thesis