Though the New York governor recently made a pretense of banning fracking in the state (it was already not allowed) and the California governor said they should do the same thing, they're both being a little hypocritical. New York would have brown-outs without the energy they buy from Pennsylvania fracking and California has no fracking and 50 percent higher utility costs than the rest of the country because they subsidize alternatives and have to buy so heavily on the spot market.

American CO2 levels are down and while some contend it is more due to federal economic mismanagement and unemployment than cleaner natural gas, emissions from coal, the dirtiest energy source, are back at early 1980s, and natural gas gets credit for that.

The journal Energy Technology has published an issue on shale gas and how to improve it, discussing  "smart wells" that use wireless communication and better wastewater management. They also recognize there is a great deal of misinformation being promoted by environmental groups and an article tackles closing the information gap between legislators, researchers and the public on the health and environmental impacts of shale gas drilling. 

Smart Wells

Andrew Bunger and co-authors propose the development of a series of sensors sunk into wells that will allow drilling companies to pull data from the deep and use that information to optimize sections of productive wells, ramp up or shut down unproductive sections, and find pockets of gas or oil that have been overlooked. 

Bunger, University of Pittsburgh assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering, along with Ervin Sejdić, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering, Nicholas Franconi, a PhD candidate in electrical and computer engineering, and Marlin Mickle, professor emeritus of electrical and computer engineering, believe academics and industry are poised to improve extraction through wireless communication.

Bunger likens this nascent technology to cell phone communication, with the signal being passed from tower to tower on a call from, say, Pittsburgh to Los Angeles rather than beamed directly over great distance. The stepwise process is necessary, he says, because of the difficulty of sending data long distances through rock and other geological media.

Wastewater Management

Pitt's Radisav Vidic investigates methods to safely reuse drilling wastewater and ways of removing potentially harmful substances, including naturally occurring radioactive materials, from the wastewater.

Vidic, the William Kepler Whiteford Professor and Chair in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and a nationally recognized expert in water issues related to fracking, reviews the management of wastewater produced during fracking in Pennsylvania's Marcellus Shale reserve.  

Information Gaps

Shanti Gamper-Rabindran, a Pitt associate professor in the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs and the Department of Economics, examines the gaps in the collection of information--and access to that information--which prevents the public, researchers, regulators, and investors from fully understanding the health and environmental impacts from the shale industry. Resolving these information gaps would enable further innovations in risk-management strategies and, thus, benefit the industry and society. 

"Informed public debate in the lifecycle of unconventional shale gas development is critical because of the uncertainties in its benefits and risks, the unequal distribution of these benefits and risks in society, and the need to make evidence-based trade-offs between the benefits and costs of risk-mitigation strategies," Gamper-Rabindran writes.