Sunday, February 20, 2011: 8:00 AM-9:30 AM
147B (Washington Convention Center )The first shale well, drilled in 1821, was also the first commercially successful natural gas well and began an industry that grew slowly for two centuries. With the recent spike in energy prices, shale gas is now a major energy source and promises a secure domestic supply. This session examines the geology, drilling methods, economic factors, and environmental and societal aspects of gas shale development. Rocks such as Barnett Shale (Texas) and Marcellus Shale (Appalachian Basin) will yield for decades. Also, shale gas generates 40 percent less carbon dioxide than coal when used for electricity. Industry has adopted techniques such as horizontal drilling that can lead to fewer rigs, lowered risk of damage to water and air, and fewer worker accidents than conventional drilling. Key to unlocking the gas from impermeable shale, hydraulic fracturing (fracing) creates pathways through a high-pressure injection of water, sand, and specialty additives. While boosting production and economics, the process has created environmental concerns. Improper drilling practices can result in problems such as infiltration into aquifers. Others are intrinsic, such as the need for vast amounts of water and for ways to dispose safely or recycle the frac fluid, which has led the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to conduct a 2-year study of the impact of fracing. Finally, drilling where it is heretofore unknown has created community discordance. The speakers will outline scientific, policy, and regulatory approaches to these issues.
John P. Martin, New York State Energy Research and Development Authority
Michele L. Aldrich, California Academy of Sciences