Carnegie Mellon University
April 10, 2013

CMU’s Scott Institute & NAE Host Symposium on Shale Gas

CMU’s Scott Institute & NAE Host Symposium on Shale Gas

CEE Professor Jeanne VanBriesen discusses environmental impacts of shale extractionCEE Professor Jeanne VanBriesen discusses environmental impacts of shale extraction

Engineers, environmental specialists, and members of the energy industry gathered in Carnegie Mellon University’s McConomy Auditorium on April 4 to discuss the implications of shale gas exploration and production for the U.S. manufacturing sector. The symposium, entitled Shale Gas: Implications for America’s Regional Manufacturing Economies, was hosted by CMU’s newly-formed Scott Institute for Energy Innovation and by the National Academy of Engineering (NAE). Shale gas is rapidly expanding the nation’s natural gas supply, and many view it as a key component of U.S. energy independence.

The half-day symposium was moderated by CEE’s Dave Dzombak, Walter J. Blenko Sr. University Professor, director of the Steinbrenner Institute for Environmental Education and Research, and NAE member. Dzombak, who also serves as chair of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Science Advisory Board panel reviewing EPA research on hydraulic fracturing, extended a warm welcome to the crowd of several hundred attendees and spoke about the increasingly central role being played by shale in the energy sector.  

The symposium featured an opening speech by Carnegie Mellon University President, CEE faculty member, and NAE member Jared L. Cohon, who spoke about the significant opportunities associated with shale gas production but urged industry leaders to acknowledge uncertainties. “If ever there was a region that knows about the long-term impacts of national resource exploitation, it’s this one,” Cohon said. “Shale gas extraction does have impacts […] and we have to acknowledge that and do something about that.”  President Cohon also announced a $30 million gift from the Richard King Mellon Foundation for support of energy-related research at Carnegie Mellon through the Scott Institute. The gift is the largest private foundation grant in Carnegie Mellon’s history.

The symposium was organized into three panels of researchers and professionals with expertise in energy-related issues. In the first panel, moderated by Scott Institute Co-director Andrew Gellman, members of the energy industry addressed the implications of shale gas on industrial developments. U.S. Steel Dean of Engineering Gerald D. Holder from the University of Pittsburgh described the move toward shale gas as a “renaissance” with the potential to create thousands of new jobs in Pennsylvania. 

Shale PanelThe remaining panels focused on the use of natural gas for transportation and on the environmental impact of shale gas production. The third panel was moderated by M. Granger Morgan, Co-Director of the Scott Institute, and included CEE Professor Jeanne VanBriesen. VanBriesen is the director of Carnegie Mellon’s Center for Water Quality in Urban Environmental Systems (WaterQUEST). She offered a summary of water use in shale gas development, potential impacts on water resources, and research needs to protect water resources.

The symposium provided an important overview of the current situation regarding shale gas development, prospects for the future, and research needs.  CEE faculty members and students have been and will continue to be engaged in research on shale gas development, including ways to develop the resource responsibly.