FUNDED BY: FP7 Marie Curie Actions CONTRACT: PIOF-GA-2013-623593 OUTGOING HOST (2015-2017):  Yale University (Center for Industrial Ecology) RETURN HOST (2017-2018): Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona (Institute for Environmental Science and Technology)


1           The IANEX objectives

With enough studies that show both pros and cons at hand, EU members look at the development of shale gas as a potential strategy to reach energy security and a low carbon economy. Whether these objectives can be reached or not by shale gas and fracking is still under assessment and a decision has not yet been taken.

The aim of the IANEX project is to provide a decision support framework that serves as a common context were all aspects of the development of shale gas can be evaluated.

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.

Figure 1. Project phases and expected synergies with other EU funded research


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.

2           Expected impact

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.

3           First results

Figure 2 shows the analytical framework of IANEX. The shale gas industry is considered an ‘organ’ of the society specialized in making shale gas available to the rest of social activities. Relation within the society and with the environment are considered.

Figure 2. Structure of the analysis divided in three checks (top) and the related methods (bottom)

  • The first results show that both the economic impacts and the environmental impacts (viability and feasibility checks) are very different depending on age of the population of wells that are considered.
  • An analysis of the regional population of wells per county reveals that the impacts of the activity do not depend on the number of wells only. The hours of operation, the age of the wells, and the local geology and hydrology play an important role in that distribution.

4           Related Press