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Get the Facts on Fracking at Free Public Seminar Series

National experts both for and against hydraulic fracturing will speak on issues

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March 28, 2013 | by Megan Fellman

EVANSTON, Ill. --- What is fracking and why all the controversy about it? One thing is for sure: it’s happening across the country right now. A free public seminar series at Northwestern University in April will address the critical issues and opportunities related to this new technology.

National experts, both for and against hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, will discuss for a general audience the method being used to extract oil and natural gas from rock deep within the earth. The goal of the series is to enlighten rather than to conclude.

The five experts, representing universities, the petroleum industry and the Congressional Research Service, will speak at four seminars held throughout the month at the Technological Institute, 2145 Sheridan Road, on Northwestern’s Evanston campus. (The schedule is below.)

The impact of hydraulic fracturing cannot be underestimated. In the past decade, the United States has moved from being a potential importer of natural gas to being poised to pass Russia as the largest producer of natural gas in the world.

“There is understandable concern and anxiety about this technology,” said Charles H. Dowding, a rock mechanics expert who organized the seminar series. “Additional research, regulation and education of specialists are needed to ensure environmentally sustainable production of oil and gas. We are offering our speakers and audiences a neutral environment in which to address related issues.”

Dowding is a professor of civil and environmental engineering in the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science.

Recent advances in drilling technology have resulted in an increased emphasis on tight shale gas, natural gas locked in joints and pockets within low-porosity rock. This source rock can be found in almost every region of the U.S., making hydraulic fracturing a national issue.

All seminars will be held in Room LR5 in the Technological Institute. The audience will have an opportunity to ask questions at the end of each session.

The speakers and their topics are:

“Short History of the Shale Gas Phenomenon,” 4:30 p.m. Thursday, April 4. Speaker: Robert Langan, geophysical consultant, Chevron Energy Technology Company.

“Fracking the Marcellus in Pennsylvania,” 4:30 p.m. Thursday, April 11. Speaker: Arthur Rose, professor emeritus of geochemistry, Pennsylvania State University.

“Industrialization of the Shale Gas Operation,” 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 17. Speaker: Anthony Ingraffea, the Dwight C. Baum Professor of Engineering, Cornell University.

“Where Are We Today? Reservoir and Completion Quality” and “Current Economic and Policy Impacts,” 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 30. Speakers: Sidney Green, senior advisor, Schlumberger Ltd., and Michael Ratner, an energy policy specialist, Congressional Research Service.

The seminar series is sponsored by Northwestern’s departments of civil and environmental engineering and of Earth and planetary sciences.

For more information, visit the department of civil and environmental engineering's website.

Topics: Campus Life