Chen poster wins at Community Modeling and Analysis System conference

Second-year PhD student's research suggests flaring of natural gas at U.S. drilling sites contributed to dozens of premature deaths.

Chen Chen standing in front of poster.

Chen Chen, a second-year doctoral student in civil and environmental engineering (CEE) at Rice University, won a poster award at the 21st annual Community Modeling and Analysis System (CMAS) conference.

Chen’s poster was titled “Black Carbon Emissions and Associated Health Impacts of Gas Flaring in the United States.” His research suggests that the flaring of natural gas at drilling sites in the United States, primarily in North Dakota and Texas, contributed to dozens of premature deaths in 2019.

The researchers worked with the Clean Air Task Force to produce calculations, based on infrared satellite observations of oil fields where 97 percent of flaring takes place, showing that the U.S. emitted almost 16,000 tons of black carbon in 2019. The researchers used computationally efficient reduced-form models to estimate that from 26 to 53 premature deaths were directly attributable to air quality associated with flares.

The CMAS conference was held Oct. 17-19 at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. CMAS is funded by the EPA. Chen, who earned his M.S. in environmental sciences from Emory University, works in the research lab of Daniel Cohan, associate professor of CEE and co-author of the paper and poster.