Systemic Risk Analyses for Potential Impacts of Onshore Unconventional Oil and Gas Development on Public Health and the Environment: A Critical Review

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Science of the Total Environment



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Environmental and public health risks related to onshore unconventional oil and gas development (OUOGD) continue to be at the center of public concerns and policy discussions. Our work fills a research gap by critically reviewing the feasibility of applying systemic causation models to assess environmental and public health risks associated with OUOGD and provides a catalyst for future research. Our primary objectives are to further the conceptual OUOGD process model and increase stakeholder awareness of useful systemic risk assessment tools for deliberating, communicating, and managing potential hazards. After examining popular linear and systemic risk assessment methods, benefits, and limitations, we critically assess the value of systemic techniques in OUOGD. A three-level process model (field development, pad-well, and well-phase) is synthesized from incomplete models found in the literature. The Systems-Theoretic Accident Model and Process (STAMP) is applied to elucidate a general risk control structure from diverse and multi-disciplinary references. Using this abstraction, we highlight the importance of leveraging systemic analysis approaches for environmental and public health risk management in OUOGD. The increasing significance of these methods given the adoption of new digital technology (e.g., drones, robotics, big data analytics, artificial intelligence, internet of things) to decision-making is evident. We recommend that researchers and practitioners (i.e., companies and regulators) thoughtfully embrace systemic risk analyses in their work to enhance the associated body of knowledge for understanding and preventing OUOGD accidents with potential impacts on public health and the environment.


Risk governance; Risk management; Decision science; Systems theory; Control theory; Hydraulic fracturing


Environmental Engineering | Oil, Gas, and Energy | Public Health



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