Panel Discussion at MIT: Managing the Shale Gas Revolution

by Duane Nichols on May 9, 2012

MIT Panel Discussion

Panel Speakers at MIT

Mark K. Boling is Executive Vice President and General Counsel of Southwestern Energy Company.  He was recently appointed by Governor Andrew Cuomo to serve on the New York Advisory Panel on High-Volume Hydraulic Fracturing.  Mr. Boling also initiated and continues to lead the effort by Southwestern Energy Company to collaborate with the Environmental Defense Fund and other environmental NGOs to develop a Model Regulatory Framework for Hydraulic Fracturing Operations.

Katherine Kennedy is the Clean Energy Counsel at the Natural Resources Defense Council, with special expertise in energy efficiency, renewable energy, global warming solutions and air and water pollution. Kit serves on the board of the New York League of Conservation Voters Education Fund and is a member of the executive committee of the New York State Bar Association’s Environmental Law Section.  She is a magna cum laude graduate of Harvard Law School and Harvard College.

Tom Murphy is Co-Director of Penn State’s Marcellus Center for Outreach and Research and a principal in the Marcellus Shale Education and Training Center.  In his role with MCOR, he provides leadership to a range of Penn State’s related Marcellus research activities.  Mr. Murphy is a graduate of Penn State University.

Dr. Franz-Josef Ulm is the George Macomber Professor of Civil & Environmental Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He received his engineering degree from the Technical University Munich, Germany, his Ph.D. from the Ecole Nationale des Ponts et Chaussees, France.  He joined MIT in January 1999, where he is responsible for materials and structures. He is the director of the Concrete Sustainability Hub at MIT (CSHub@MIT), a research center dedicated to reducing the environmental footprint of construction materials; and of the X-Shale Hub@MIT, dedicated to implementing science-enabled engineering innovation for gas shale technology developments.


Shale gas has revolutionized our energy landscape given its domestic abundance, cleaner-burning properties, and job-creating potential. However, shale gas production carries considerable risks. See this conference description for details of the discussion.

MIT reports that State and federal agencies are actively investigating whether mistakes in cementing or hydraulic fracturing can lead to unacceptable environmental hazards such as groundwater contamination. The panel examines the case for much-needed innovations in both the regulatory and technology worlds. Who are the appropriate policy-makers? Can they develop a sound and equitable regulatory framework? What are the right safety valves and how much can they be turned without grinding the industry to a halt? How can industry, academia, and other stakeholders partner to create safer and more efficient production technologies? These questions are the substance of the meeting,  in order to gain insight into how technology and policy innovation can maximize the positive potential of shale gas.


WVU Workshop: Drilling Down on Marcellus

Back in October of 2011, a “Drilling Down on Marcellus” Workshop was held at the WVU College of Law on these same topics.  And, Mark K. Boling reviewed his plans at that time for a “model regulatory framework for hydraulic fracturing operations.”   We are looking for evidence that State governments and drilling  companies are actually listening. Are they interested?  Or, are many of the important decisions being guided by political influence?

Mark K. Boling, Vice President and General Counsel at Southwestern Energy, presented a talk in cooperation with the Environmental Defense Fund.  Boling said that leakage is a problem that should be addressed by the industry. Casing leakage involves (1) cement channeling primarily in the shallow zone of the well, (2) casing leakage at joints or ruptures, and (3) insufficient cement coverage at the shoe.  And, clearly leakage can occur in other ways and for other reasons.

You can find out more about this latter Workshop at the web-site referenced here.

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