BOWLING GREEN — A Penn State University professor whose research is often cited as the impetus behind the Ohio-Pennsylvania fracking boom said Friday there is virtually no chance that type of drilling will occur in Bowling Green because the northwest Ohio college town doesn’t have the rock formation to justify it.
“Bowling Green has nothing to lose by banning fracking, because fracking is not going to happen here, anyway,” Terry Engelder, a PSU geosciences professor, told The Blade after delivering a guest lecture to about 60 people at Bowling Green State University’s Life Sciences building.
But he doesn’t see the anti-fracking moves made by Bowling Green — a zoning ordinance that bans fracking and disposal of fracking fluids, as well as a residents’ drive to amend the city’s charter to toughen those bans — as wasted exercises, either. The latter calls for voters on Nov. 5 to approve a residents’ bill of rights to clean air, clean land, and clean water.
“It’s a message from Bowling Green to Washington that this country needs to develop a national energy policy,” Mr. Engelder said of the collective efforts.
Despite his pro-fracking reputation — Mr. Engelder jokingly said his critics call him an “industry shill” — he said he believes America needs to develop a more diversified portfolio of energy sources, one with a strong mix of renewables such as wind power and solar power.
“Renewables will happen,” he told 15 BGSU students who joined him for a discussion after his lecture. “The rate it happens is up to your generation to figure out.”
Mr. Engelder has served on the staffs of the U.S. Geological Survey, Texaco, and Columbia University, and is a former member of a U.S.-Soviet Union earth science delegation. But he is best-known for his research into the massive Marcellus shale bedrock that encompasses much of central and eastern Ohio. It extends across much of the northern half of Pennsylvania, and is prevalent in the western part of the state near Pittsburgh.
He and Gary Lash, a professor at State University of New York-Fredonia, found vast reserves of natural gas in the Marcellus region. In 2008, they predicted 50 trillion cubic feet of the 516 trillion cubic feet of Marcellus shale were recoverable, prompting the rush of drilling interest in those two states and in West Virginia. Much of eastern Ohio also is underlain by Utica shale, which likewise is believed to have vast untapped reserves.
Mr. Engelder since has become one of the geology world’s rock stars, one of the most sought-after speakers in that realm of science. His BGSU visit was part of the annual Mayfield Lecture Series in geology.
Fracking is the term for hydraulic fracturing of bedrock. The drilling technique has existed for decades, but has been deployed more aggressively in recent years because of advances in a horizontal method of doing it. As a result, oil and gas firms are interested in reserves previously thought inaccessible in many parts of the world.
Ohio is preparing for a fracking boom in 2014 that’s expected to last 20 to 30 years.
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