The unconventional oil and gas industry is facing a variety of challenges in managing the safety, health and environmental risks involved for safe and sustainable shale oil and gas extraction. The ultimate safety of an unconventional hydraulic fracturing operation is the responsibility of everyone associated with the project. As engineers that take responsibility for engineering quality and reliability into engineered systems, we would like to develop effective and efficient processes to help assure quality and reliability in these systems during their lifetimes.

This paper introduces the concept of Quality and Failure in a broad sense as related to shale oil and gas infrastructure with particular application to waste water disposal associated with hydraulic fracturing operations. In most of the shale oil and gas hydraulic fracturing operations, safety of the designed system was incorporated. However, there was no instruction in how to determine if a system was safe or not safe and communicate this to all stakeholders in order to receive a Social License to Operate. For some time the public has asked questions about seismic activity related to hydraulic fracturing and other oil-field related activities. In particular, there is concern that the energy that goes into the subsurface during hydraulic fracturing is sufficient to cause felt earthquakes. In many cases, it was assumed that something was safe if it was designed according to some generally accepted engineering code or guideline. In this work the main concept is reliability and probability of failure for the hydraulic fracturing systems which requires the evaluation of intrinsic and extrinsic uncertainties associated with the system. This work develops and documents a probabilistic reliability assessment methodology that addresses hydraulic fracturing operation resilience and sustainability by explicitly incorporating two types of variability.


The increase in unconventional oil and gas extraction projects has generated significant growth in North American oil and gas over the last several years. However, this growth comes with challenges related induced seismicity from an expanding number of water disposal sites (many of them in remote locations). Maintenance of safety and security practices for these sites may become increasingly challenging as the shale oil and gas operations become geographically dispersed and more diverse.

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