The Science Beneath the Surface: A Very Short Guide to the Marcellus Shale

By Don Duggan-Haas, Robert M. Ross, and Warren D. Allmon
with contributions by Kelly E. Cronin, Trisha A. Smrecak, and Sara Auer Perry

Paleontological Research Institution (Special Publication 43), Ithaca, New York, 252 pp. 2013.

Table of Contents

  • Preface and Acknowledgments
  • Introduction
  • Chapter 1. Geology of the Marcellus Shale
  • Chapter 2. Why the Geology Matters
  • Chapter 3. The Technology of Shale Gas Extraction
  • Chapter 4. Water and Marcellus Shale Development
  • Chapter 5. Beyond Water: Other Environmental Impacts of Marcellus Gas Development
  • Chapter 6. Life-Cycle Analysis: Shale Gas and Climate Change
  • Chapter 7. The Marcellus Shale in a Broader Energy Context
  • Chapter 8. Compared to What? Risk, Uncertainty, & Hydrofracking
  • Chapter 9. Teaching About the Marcellus Shale
  • Chapter 10. So What?
  • Abbreviations and Acronyms
  • Glossary
  • Endnotes
  • Figure Credits
  • References
  • Index
  • Contributors

The Marcellus Shale — a vast rock formation that holds a huge reservoir of natural gas — is at the center of one of the most controversial natural resources issues of our time. This is primarily because of the unconventional method used to extract gas from the shale — slickwater horizontal high-volume hydraulic fracturing, or hydrofracking. Concerns about how widespread use of the practice will affect the natural environment — most especially freshwaters at the local level and climate at the global level — have thrust geology into the public view in a way seldom otherwise experienced. This book, funded by National Science Foundation grants NSF GEO 1016359 and 1035078, reviews the major science and technology issues around this complex topic, offering impartial, evidence-based, thought-provoking information to help citizens decide what to do.

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The final chapter of the book, entitled “So What?”, attempts to “summarize the current state of what science ‘knows’ (i.e., has reached a reasonable consensus on) about natural gas in the Marcellus Shale,” all the while acknowledging that “there is ample reason to believe that many aspects of this tentative consensus might change in the near future as research proceeds.”

“It is perhaps the most balanced, authoritative and, most importantly, accessible summary I’ve come across of what we know about unconventional gas development in the Marcellus and beyond, what we don’t know, and what we need to know. I heartily recommend this book, not just to those teaching about the Marcellus, but to laymen — like me — eager to learn more about it.”

Seamus McGraw, author of The End of the Country: Dispatches from the Frack Zone

“This is an impressive collection of information that brings the complexity and scale of the issue down to the fundamentals, stripped of ideology and hype. I know of no other work that tackles the broad issues with this degree of scope, detail, and neutrality. This approach is hugely needed and will greatly serve the public.”

Tom Wilber, author of Under the Surface: Fracking, Fortunes, and the Fate of the Marcellus Shale

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