Shale Network workshop brings together diverse stakeholders to discuss shale gas

Shale Network workshop participants take a tour of the Eureka Resources oil and gas wastewater management facility in Williamsport.  Credit: Francisco Tutella / Penn StateCreative Commons

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The Shale Network hosted its eighth annual workshop May 16 and 17 at the Nittany Lion Inn on Penn State's University Park campus. More than 100 individuals representing diverse stakeholder groups attended the workshop to discuss environmental monitoring in communities and regions experiencing shale energy development.

“Penn State provides the perfect forum to forge conversation among stakeholders from industry, academia, government and the community on this topic, which crosses from economics to environmental science to policy,” said Susan Brantley, distinguished professor of geosciences and director of the Earth and Environmental Systems Institute at Penn State.

The annual Shale Network workshop highlights the latest developments in the Marcellus Shale region, including discussions this year about an ethane cracker plant in southwest Pennsylvania and a proposal for new gas and liquid storage fields.

“It was a fantastic workshop,” said Mary Kang, assistant professor of civil engineering at McGill University in Canada. “I think it was a unique experience because of the diversity of people and the size of the workshop. You really got to interact with different people, and that doesn’t always happen.”

James Shallenberger, monitoring and protection manager of the Susquehanna River Basin Commission, gives an overview of the hydraulic fracturing regulatory and monitoring experience in the Susquehanna River basin.  Credit: Francisco Tutella / Penn StateCreative Commons

The workshop began with a field trip to two shale-derived waste management facilities that handle liquid and solid wastes from well drilling and oil and gas production. The first was a tour of the Eureka Resources oil and gas wastewater management facility in Williamsport. Operators led small group tours around the facility and explained how the plant pretreats, recycles and disposes of wastewater from shale energy development in the Marcellus and Utica regions.

The group also toured the Wayne Township Landfill in Clinton County. The landfill manages drilling cuttings and muds generated primarily from shale well drilling operations and uses novel practices to minimize the industry’s environmental footprint. In addition, the landfill hosts a compressed natural gas filling station for vehicles, a landscape mulch and sawdust program, and a recycling facility.

“The field trip was great,” said Erica Blumenschein, a health, environment and safety specialist at Chevron Corp. “I appreciate that we were able to see a couple different facets of the industry I don’t normally get into. I’m on the air compliance side of things. It was interesting to see where the produced water goes from our wells and also interesting to see, kind of on the wayside, how things are managed.”

Michael Crist, left, environmental manager of the Wayne Township Landfill, and Dave Yoxtheimer, right, assistant research professor at Penn State, discuss how the landfill handles liquid and solid waste from shale energy development. Credit: Francisco Tutella / Penn StateCreative Commons

The first day concluded with a poster session and an evening group discussion facilitated by the Pennsylvania Joint Coal and Gas Committee. The discussion focused on issues related to the interface of coal mining and natural gas development.

The second day featured panel discussions, presentations and poster sessions by representatives from academia, state and federal government agencies, industry, environmental groups, and students from State College Area High School.

“I think probably the best thing about this workshop is the incredible amount of crosstalk,” said Warren Wilczewski, an energy economist at the U.S. Energy Information Administration. “I speak at conferences where every speaker will get two or three questions, and there will be maybe a little bit of a discussion among panelists. But here there is much more interaction between the various participants, and the variety of backgrounds is also broader than most of the events I go to. It’s very nice to see that.”

Members of the TeenShale Network present a poster at the Shale Network workshop.  Credit: Francisco Tutella / Penn StateCreative Commons

Several participants commended the breadth of issues discussed at the workshop, saying they learned more about topics old and new.

“A lot of times you go to these scientific conferences and you’re learning incremental things about fields that you really know a lot about,” said Kang. “Here I really learned about new fields.”

The Shale Network is a collaborative effort between Penn State, the University of Pittsburgh, and the Consortium of Universities for the Advancement of Hydrologic Sciences Inc. to collect and analyze data on water quality in the Marcellus Shale drilling region. The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection participates in organizing parts of the workshop. Oak Ridge Associated Universities also provides funding.

Last Updated June 14, 2019