Assessing Impacts to Transportation Infrastructure from Oil and Gas Extraction in Rural Communities: A Case Study in the Mississippi Tuscaloosa Marine Shale Oil Play

Leah A. Dundon, Mark Abkowitz, Janey Camp, Craig Philip


Recent advances in technologies associated with hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling have provided access to vast reserves of oil and gas that were previously uneconomical to produce, and in areas without a history of concentrated drilling activity. Townships and counties without sufficient financial resources have faced new challenges to maintain transportation infrastructure despite unprecedented volumes of heavy truck traffic on aging roads not designed for such use. Many studies have evaluated the impact of oil and gas development on roads, but small, local communities—where road impacts are felt the most—do not have the resources to utilize much of this information or conduct the necessary advanced data-gathering and analysis. Using the Tuscaloosa Marine Shale (TMS) oil play in Mississippi as a case study, this paper presents a methodology for local planners to identify at-risk infrastructure. By using data obtainable by local planners, we demonstrate how to identify routes likely to be impacted and how to obtain and use data on water volume use, which correlates directly to road impacts and has been underutilized as a component for future planning. This paper also fills a gap by including operator perspectives on local approaches to addressing road impacts.

Keywords: hydraulic fracturing; road impacts; rural economic development; FracFocus; operator perspectives; Mississippi

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The Journal of Rural and Community Development is supported by SSHRC.