Carnegie Mellon University
March 14, 2014

Samaras and Colleagues Publish Research Estimating Road Damage from Shale Gas Operations

Samaras and Colleagues Publish Research Estimating Road Damage from Shale Gas Operations
CEE Assistant Professor Constantine Samaras and colleagues recently published a paper in the Journal of Infrastructure Systems titled Estimating the Consumptive Use Costs of Shale Natural Gas Extraction on Pennsylvania Roadways. See links to the article here and here.  This research was conducted with a multidisciplinary team of RAND researchers and graduate students while Samaras was a Senior Engineer at the RAND Corporation.  The paper, which is co-authored by Shmuel Abramzon, Aimee Curtright, Aviva Litovitz, and Nicholas Burger, examines the impact of gas extraction operations on roadways in Pennsylvania.

Heavy vehicles do far more damage to roads than typical cars.  According to Samaras’ recent blog post “One hydraulic fracturing operation requires about 600-1,100 one-way, heavy truck trips to bring equipment, materials, and sometimes water to and from a well site.”  To estimate the road reconstruction costs associated with drilling a shale gas well, the study combined data about the number of Pennsylvania gas wells drilled in 2011 with information about the cost of maintaining different types of roads.  The study estimated that the road damage on Pennsylvania state-maintained roadways from 2011 shale gas operations was between $8.5 and $39 million.  Samaras and the research team say that this information could assist Pennsylvania legislators in developing policies to reduce these costs for the state.

“Our research shows that there are external costs from shale trucks on roadways, but these costs are manageable with the right policies,” says Samaras.  

Samaras is part of CEE’s Environmental Engineering Sustainability and Science (EESS) and Advanced Infrastructure Systems (AIS) research groups and studies energy, climate change, infrastructure, and defense issues.   This paper is part of his recent work investigating the life cycle environmental and economic costs associated with energy.