Published by The College of Liberal and Professional Studies
MES Lecture Series: Fracking in the Upper Delaware Watershed
For years geologists have known that the Marcellus Shale contained vast amounts of natural gas, but because of the nature of the rock extraction of this resource has not been economically feasible. As oil prices have risen and extraction technologies have improved, these reserves are now viable. What are the risks involved with tapping the Marcellus Shale? Could this adversely affect the drinking water supply of residents all along the Delaware River?
This lecture is presented by Yvette Bordeaux. Dr. Bordeaux is Director of the Professional Master's Programs in Earth and Environmental Science. A graduate of the University of Rochester, she received her Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania in 2000. A paleontologist, Dr. Bordeaux eschews dinosaurs and other large vertebrates for the fossils of much smaller creatures who can indicate how the environment has changed over time. Her early research focused on the burrows formed by invertebrate worms in Lower Devonian outcrops of eastern New York State. These days, she studies epibionts, specifically the fossils of organisms that lived on the shells of brachiopods dating from the Middle Devonian of New York State.
Fracking Points to Ponder
- The Marcellus shale is over 385 million years old, made up of very fine-grained particles.
- The Marcellus Shale ranges from Canada to West Virginia to Ohio. Its organic content ranges from 1 – 11%. You need about 2 – 3% to start developing natural gas.
- The average oil and gas well requires 320 to 1,365 truckloads of equipment to bring a well into production.
- 3 – 5 million gallons of water are needed to develop a well.
- Over ½ the fossil fuel in the U.S. is used by the general population: residential homes, apartments, heating, electricity etc.
- Among the fossil fuels, natural gas is probably the cleanest burning. That doesn’t mean it’s necessarily “clean,” it still produces pollutants in the atmosphere.
- For the most part, natural gas is formed in marine environments (oceans, deeper waters).
- Fracking fluid is about 99.5% water and sand. The other .5% is proprietary—every company has their own special formula (that they claim gives them the best yield) which they don’t disclose to the general public.
- Leaks account for about 25% of the total U.S. methane emissions.