“The Great Shale Gas Rush”

National Geographic News, October 13, 2010

National Academies of Science Keck Futures Initiative Communications Awards, Finalist, online

National Magazine Awards for Digital Media, Finalist, news reporting

See special report at National Geographic News, or browse below.


shale-rush_pennsylvaniaNatural Gas Stirs Hope and Fear in Pennsylvania

Along the narrow two-lane roads that wind through Washington County in southwestern Pennsylvania, there is little sign that the surrounding pastures and hay bales, barns, homes, and children’s swing sets all are sitting on one of the largest reservoirs of natural gas in the world. Read more.




shale-rush_environmentA Dream Dashed by the Rush on Gas

Even as the Hallowiches were building their yellow, two-story home in Mount Pleasant Township, the bucolic view was being replaced by an industrial panorama. Four natural gas wells, a gas processing plant, a compressor station, buried pipelines, a three-acre plastic-lined holding pond, and a gravel road with heavy truck traffic surround them. “It’s ruined our lives. That’s what it comes down to,” says Chris. Read more.





shale-rush_economyA Drive for New Jobs Through Energy

For Lee Zavislak, who at the age of 46 is learning to drive an 18-wheel truck, the Marcellus shale means hope for a new start. Read more.








shale-rush_technologyForcing Gas Out of Rock With Water

Harlan Shober remembers how cars lined Hickory Ridge Road in the spring of 2008 with curiosity-seekers hoping for a glimpse of the first Marcellus shale gas flare in Chartiers Township, Pennsylvania. Read more.








Parks, Forests Eyed for the Fuel Beneath

Whether they come for whitewater rafting through the Youghiogheny River Gorge, or to enjoy the vistas at the edge of the Laurel Highlands, Pennsylvania’s highest mountains, visitors flock each season to Ohiopyle State Park. But a new guest interested in work, not recreation, is seeking entry to the 20,500-acre woodland. Read more. 






Breaking Fuel From the Rock 

Geologists long knew there was natural gas in the Marcellus shale formation, but thought it impossible to unlock. But producers in the last decade learned to mine this huge resource by drilling horizontally to reach a large surface area, then fracturing the rock with high-pressure water, sand, and lubricant chemicals. See interactive.






shale-rush_mappingMapping a Gas Boom

Drillers have etched a growing mark on Pennsylvania since first producing natural gas out of its shale rock. Fifteen producing wells are in state forests, and seismic surveyors are eyeing state parks. The map and graph below show the growth of shale wells in Pennsylvania from January 2007 to September 2010. See interactive map.



Photography by Scott Goldsmith. Art and graphics by Stephen Rountree.