Natural Gas Production, Electricity, and Water Infrastructures – Economic, Environmental and Agricultural Impacts in the Texas-Mexico Border Region


This project will create coupled fuel, electricity, water, and air models for Texas and eastern Mexico to a develop quantitative understanding of the implications of increased natural gas usage in the Texas-Mexico border region.


Production of natural gas and natural gas co-products has been enhanced dramatically in the United States, enabled by technologies such as horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing of shale formations. This transformation in the production of shale gas and oil is directly impacting US fuel distribution, electrical generation, and water distribution infrastructures, and is expanding fuel exports. These collective changes in water, electricity and fuel infrastructures will also impact agricultural production and air quality. This project will assess the robustness and resiliency of international, interdependent, natural gas infrastructures, infrastructures needed to provide electrical energy, and the interaction of these fuel and electricity infrastructures with water systems, agricultural activity, and air quality. Using the case study of the border between Mexico and the United States, the project will examine the opportunities and constraints imposed on international infrastructures by trade policies and shared water and air resources. The project will employ advanced simulation and visualization tools to assess and communicate information concerning the state of the infrastructures.

The project will create coupled fuel, electricity, water and air quality models for Texas and eastern Mexico, develop visualization tools to depict the interactions of these multi-layer, multi-resource, multi-timescale, multi-geographical scale models, and use the coupled models to test the resiliency of the multiple integrated systems to natural perturbations and trade policy scenarios affecting water and energy markets. Decision support tools that will help decision-makers will be created and deployed, and new educational materials that promote a better understanding of interdependent fuel, electricity, water and food infrastructures will be crafted. The educational materials will take multiple forms including course modules, videos, radio and television segments and open access courses. Multiple audiences will be targeted including researchers, graduate students, undergraduate students, and the general public. Dissemination avenues will include television, public radio, web, and direct interactions with teachers and the general public. Decision support tools will be applied to examine strategic decisions associated with changing infrastructures.


Just as the large-scale use of biofuels has had wide-ranging impacts on food, water, energy and air quality systems, the expanded availability and use of natural gas and natural gas liquids in the United States and Mexico will have substantial and far-reaching impacts on infrastructures and economic and environmental systems in the border region. These potential impacts and economic opportunities are largely unmapped. We propose a multi-tiered effort that will develop a quantitative understanding of the implications of the transformations that increased use of natural gas would drive. The innovations will range from new infrastructures that will enhance the value of these resources to the development of new systems-level tools for quantifying and spatially resolving potential impacts on agricultural, air and water resources.


Dr. Paul Navratil
Director, Strategic Technologies


Galdeano, C and Cook, M A and Webber, M E. "Multilayer geospatial analysis of water availability for shale resources development in Mexico," Environmental Research Letters, v.12, 2017. doi:10.1088/1748-9326/aa7c95