Energy Excursions

Road Traffic

Few, if any, studies have been published in open literature on traffic issues related to geothermal development, though, exploration, well drilling, and infrastructure development activities would be similar to oil and gas development. The Academy of Medicine, Engineering and Science of Texas (“TAMEST”)1The Academy of Medicine, Engineering and Science of Texas – TAMEST. (2017). Environmental and Community Impacts of Shale Development in Texas. The Academy of Medicine, Engineering and Science of Texas. Austin, Texas. recently summarized changes in truck traffic and truckloads associated with unconventional oil and gas exploration by noting that increased truck traffic resulting from initial exploration, pad drilling and development, site maintenance, and other site activities can significantly increase traffic through communities, representing a significant negative externality to community members during the development phase of a project.2Bear, J.C., and Jones, B.A., eds. (2023, May 1). Chapter 10: Environmental Considerations and Impact. The Future of Geothermal in Texas. p. 277. https://energy.utexas.edu/research/geothermal-texas

Truck traffic increases with industrial activity such as the oil and gas development that has occurred recently in the Denver-Julesburg Basin (DJ Basin) in Colorado.
Truck traffic increases with industrial activity such as the oil and gas development that has occurred recently in the Denver-Julesburg Basin (DJ Basin) in Colorado. The exploration, well drilling, and infrastructure development activities for geothermal projects would be similar to those for oil and gas development.

Moreover, a study by Quiroga and others (2012)3Quiroga, C., Fernando, E., & Oh, J. (2012). Energy developments and the transportation infrastructure in Texas: impacts and strategies (No. FHWA/TX-12/0-6498-1). Texas Transportation Institute. reported on study results showing the increased number of truckloads traveling in rural areas of Texas, both empty and full load vehicles, can impact roadways. These impacts are particularly noteworthy on rural roads, which often are not designed to carry heavy loads. The researchers showed, for example, that a 25% increase in vehicle weight from 80,000 to 100,000 pounds would result in an increased pavement impact of 140 percent. An obvious trade off seems to exist between reducing the number of trucks on the road, which benefits local residents in a number of ways, against the heavier load of each truck imparting a larger impact on road quality.4Bear, J.C., and Jones, B.A., eds. (2023, May 1). Chapter 10: Environmental Considerations and Impact. The Future of Geothermal in Texas. p. 277. https://energy.utexas.edu/research/geothermal-texas

Although operations for geothermal projects will differ in some ways from those of an unconventional hydrocarbon well field, impacts related to fluid management and disposal, truck traffic and road impact/damage need to be accounted for in initial planning and impact mitigation activities for projects under consideration in areas where populations may be impacted.5Bear, J.C., and Jones, B.A., eds. (2023, May 1). Chapter 10: Environmental Considerations and Impact. The Future of Geothermal in Texas. p. 277. https://energy.utexas.edu/research/geothermal-texas

Image Credits

  • Truck-traffic-oil-gas-DJ-Basin: photo courtesy of Hilary Olson
Oklahoma Academic Standards
TEKS Standards
College Board Units and Topics
Next Generation Science Standards