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Integrated Assessment of the water-energy Nexus:
the water metabolism of hydraulic fracturing

Final Report Summary - IANEX (Integrated Assessment of the water-energy Nexus: the water metabolism of hydraulic fracturing.)

Despite the skeptical position of most of the EU member States, the shale gas industry has made its way through OPEP’s price-lowering hit-and-sink maneuver. This is particularly true in countries like US and Canada or in China, a country said to have the highest shale gas reserves of the world. Resulting from the loss of energy sovereignty, EU Member States might have to reconsider their position on shale gas development.

The IANEX project examined shale gas in Pennsylvania, US, and built scenarios in the EU using a Feasibility-Viability-Desirability assessment with a water-energy nexus perspective and including the stakeholders in the analysis.
That decision support framework combines Industrial Ecology and Complex Systems Theory in the definition of the metabolic patterns of the shale gas industry. The metabolic pattern of an industrial activity is given by the speed and the distribution at which the activity generates and uses energy and materials and the way in which those flows contribute to maintain the organization of the activity. The metabolism of an activity depends on many different parameters including what type of activity, its location, the technology used, the way in which the activity is performed and its dependence from other activities.

The case study of Pennsylvania in the US is used to calibrate the framework during the first stage of the project, carried out at Yale University, US, in the period 2015-2017. During the second stage at the Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona, Spain, different scenarios of application in the EU will be tested. After 2018, a further analysis of the shale gas industry in Europe is expected within the big-size collaborative project MAGIC, funded by the Horizon 2020 research program of the European Commission.

The research proposed in IANEX will lead to a better understanding of the impacts of fracking activities. It is designed to reach different markets:
• For academics, this research provides a reference for the assessment of the water-energy nexus and fracking. The definition of the shale gas set as a population can be applied to other energy resources, included to renewables.
• For decision makers, industries, land owners and local communities IANEX provides a platform to enrich the debate about how suitable the exploitation of shale gas is at different levels.

We combined some principles of Life Cycle Inventory (LCI) with the Multi Scale Integrated Assessment of Socio-Ecological Systems (MuSIASEM) to develop a framework where water and energy system merge in a georeferenced local activity.
This framework involves public participation in the design of the indicators and can be used to assess other fossil and renewable energy sources, water related innovations or policies.

Results 1 Pennsylvania

The natural gas system -main methane emitter- should reduce its emissions to about 4500 by 2025, following the COP agreement. In IANEX we checked well demographics to compare the effects of the gas emission policies proposed by President Obama and President Trump. In the Obama scenario the emissions of the Shale gas in Pennsylvania would be 4,500 Gg higher than the allowed for the whole natural gas industry. The Trump scenario, however is 11,500 Gg higher than required .

When shale gas wells are studied as a structure, without taking into account that it is an important functional component of a bigger system, some parts of the picture are missing. In IANEX we realized that not even in the most productive regions of Pennsylvania is the shale gas profitable in energy or economic terms.

Results 2 EU
With the Groningen fields closing by 2030 and the deterioration of diplomatic relations with Russia the EU faces the decision to reconsider positions on shale gas. However, a case study in Poland tells us that it is difficult to offset the almost 20 billion cubic meter gap the Dutch fields will leave in Europe. A functional scenario analysis of IANEX shows how not even a high density scenario (1.5 billion cubic meters) can help closing the gap.

Jan 2015- Dec 2018
(36 Months)

Project type:
7th FP Marie Curie International Outgoing Fellowship

Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona
Yale University

Cristina Madrid-Lopez
ID: C-5958-2018