WASHINGTON (Oct. 28, 2010)—”The Great Shale Gas Rush” from NationalGeographic.com is the first comprehensive report by a national media outlet that explores both the promise and pitfalls of a vast new natural energy resource in the United States. The five-part report offers on-the-ground investigation and stunning imagery of the natural gas drilling boom that has ramped up over the past three years to tap into the largest shale deposit in the nation — the Marcellus shale formation, centered in Pennsylvania. Experts believe it may be the second-largest reservoir of natural gas in the world, estimated to hold up to 500 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, which could have major economic and environmental implications for the nation and world.
NationalGeographic.com’s in-depth special report is the result of six months of original reporting, involving nearly 100 interviews with people who have been part of the shale gas story in Pennsylvania and those who have been watching what it means for the world energy picture from afar. The report lays out all the factors at play in determining future developments for the rapidly expanding industry, including how this new supply of clean-burning fuel fits into the national and global energy picture; environmental questions raised about the extraction process; what the new industry means to job seekers, farmers, small businesses and landowners in economically struggling Pennsylvania; and what factors might cause the boom to derail. The special report is found at http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/energy/2010/10/101022-energy-marcellus-shale-gas-rush/.
Natural gas has the potential to generate electricity with just half the greenhouse gas emissions of coal and to power vehicles with less pollution. This promising fuel reserve, which runs from New York through much of northeastern and western Pennsylvania and parts of West Virginia and Ohio, has been unlocked at a time when the world is in need of cleaner energy. With its proximity to mid-Atlantic U.S. markets, the Marcellus shale’s huge potential has lured billions of dollars of investment from companies around the world including from India, Japan and Norway. Nearly 70 energy companies are prospecting in the area, with plans for drilling 3,500 wells annually within the decade, potentially creating 200,000 jobs, the industry says.
Whether this new supply can be tapped sustainably is still to be determined, with some 4 million gallons of water required for each well and the management of wastewater a challenge the industry must tackle.
Complementing the special report, NationalGeographic.com presents five galleries of original photography, painting visual narratives of those impacted by the shale rush, with accompanying “in-their-own-words” video; the technology behind the science of shale gas; the effect on the economy; the impact on the environment; and a general overview of the issue at large.
In addition, two interactive graphics provide better understanding of the current and potential scope of natural gas drilling. “Breaking Fuel from the Rock” takes users step-by-step underground through the process of hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling that has unlocked natural gas from solid rock. “Mapping a Gas Boom” shows the extent of the 95,000-square-mile formation and allows users to track the ramp-up of well drilling since its start in 2007. It is the only such map that has state and federal lands marked so users can track the drilling taking place in state forest land.
“The Great Shale Gas Rush” is produced as part of National Geographic’s Great Energy Challenge initiative, a three-year effort to help better understand the breadth and depth of our current energy situation. The initiative is sponsored by Royal Dutch Shell, which recently acquired a stake in the Marcellus shale. National Geographic maintains autonomy over this initiative and all content published on NationalGeographic.com.
NationalGeographic.com is the award-winning website of the National Geographic Society and attracts 15 million unique visitors a month. NationalGeographic.com combines National Geographic’s video, photography and maps with in-depth information and interactive features about animals, nature, destinations and cultures. NationalGeographic.com’s news service, National Geographic News, publishes daily stories about science and discoveries. Information about advertising on NationalGeographic.com is at nationalgeographic.com/advertising.