There is big money in drilling for natural gas in Pennsylvania and other states. Lisa Andresky, a Slippery Rock University environmental science major, has been researching the potential environmental impact of drilling by participating in a National Science Foundation-funded research project. She has been examining the chemical content of the Marcellus shale, a massive rock formation and large source of natural gas that stretches from New York to West Virginia.
Andresky was accepted into the Ecosystem Restoration through Interdisciplinary Exchange Research Experience for Undergraduates program hosted by the University of Buffalo. She collaborated with Tracy Banks, a University of Buffalo geology professor.
“I looked at the mineralogy and trace element chemistry of the Marcellus,” Andresky said. “Basically, people want to know what is really in the Marcellus.” The entire Marcellus shale formation could contain up to 490 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, according to 2009 study by the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences at Pennsylvania State University. The study shows that the Marcellus gas industry in Pennsylvania accounted for 29,000 jobs in 2008 and $240 million in state and local taxes.
For her research, Andresky said she traveled several times to western New York to examine outcrops of shale. Working with Banks, the pair hopes to prove that uranium is being mobilized in the Marcellus when it interacts with drilling fluids.