Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2017

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

First Advisor

Joseph R. Kasprzyk

Second Advisor

Jana B. Milford

Third Advisor

Joseph N. Ryan

Fourth Advisor

Sherri M. Cook


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 the public health of communities in proximity to UOGD and the environmental quality of these regions, while maintaining economic benefits. One such regulation is setback distance, which dictates the minimum distance between an oil and gas well and an occupied structure, such as a residential or commercial building, or an area of special concern. This study discusses a new policy analysis framework for UOGD regulations. We use this framework to generate plausible configurations of well pads based on setback distance policy alternatives and model potential air quality outcomes based on these configurations and policy alternatives. In this analysis, air quality impacts are characterized by concentrations of BTEX compounds, a group of hazardous air pollutants that has been linked to cancer and other detrimental health effects through simulation of short-term and long-term concentration averages using meteorological data from Denver, CO. Our framework also compares these concentrations to regulatory guidelines. Results indicate potential issues with acute benzene and to a lesser extent toluene concentrations based on current regulations. Comparison between setback distances suggest that the effectiveness of alternatives depends on the location of the well pad with respect to the home as well as the volume of emissions from the pad.