Oil and gas exploration in the United States has expanded with the increased use of horizontal, or directional, drilling to facilitate the recovery of shale gas and tight oil resources. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that 25,000 to 30,000 new hydraulic fracturing wells were drilled each year between 2011 to 2014, and the impact of those wells and the use of hydraulic fracturing has been a topic of public and policy discussion in recent years. Though chemistry and chemical engineering are used extensively in the hydraulic fracturing process, their roles are not well understood outside of the oil and gas industries. In a workshop held May 18-19, 2015 in Washington, DC, practitioners and experts in these fields came together to discuss shale gas and tight oil resource development.
At the workshop, audience members representing industry, academia, regulatory agencies, NGOs, and the general public participated in the plenary sessions and in a series of focused breakout sessions. Topics included industry drivers for resource development, social and economic impacts of the development, recent advances in technology and future research needs, and environmental concerns and impacts of the wells. The workshop opened with a plenary talk about the economic present and future of shale gas and tight oil resource development from Alan Krupnick, Co-Director of Resources for the Future’s Center for Energy and Climate Economics.
A workshop summary was prepared by workshop rapporteur Nancy Huddleston as a factual summary of what occurred at the workshop. At the start of each section, a number of key points are highlighted. These are drawn from the plenary sessions and the related breakout session reports. A summary of the discussions that occurred in the breakout sessions can be found at the end of this report. Though these sessions were structured around a set of guiding questions, the discussions among the participants often extended to address a number of related issues. In accordance with the policies of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, the workshop did not attempt to establish any conclusions or recommendations about the needs or future directions for research and focused instead on the issues identified by the speakers and workshop participants.