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A Forum for the Facts: Hydraulic Fracturing


September 16, 2011 — By Mark Northam, Director, University of Wyoming School of Energy Resources, and Ingrid Burke, Director, UW Haub School and Ruckelshaus Institute of Environment and Natural Resources 

For decades, hydraulic fracturing has been used to recover natural gas and oil from unconventional geologic formations in Wyoming and elsewhere across the United States. In recent years, its use has greatly expanded, resulting in greater energy production as well as public concern about potential environmental impacts.

At the University of Wyoming, we’re focused on greater understanding. Our conference, “Hydraulic Fracturing: A Wyoming Energy Forum,” scheduled for Sept. 26-27 at the UW Conference Center at the Hilton Garden Inn in Laramie, will expand understanding of the process.

The UW School of Energy Resources and Ruckelshaus Institute for Environment and Natural Resources offer this forum to explore technical issues and environmental concerns related to hydraulic fracturing technology and activities directly linked to its use.

At the direction of the UW Energy Resources Council, we assembled a steering committee to shape what this conference would look like. Our steering committee draws from stakeholder groups across the spectrum of interest -- energy and environment, science and regulation. For more than six months, this committee has worked to identify topics and speakers that will promote greater understanding about hydraulic fracturing.

The result of that work is a forum that will provide a mechanism for sharing facts about the use of hydraulic fracturing in oil and natural gas development in Wyoming. It’s also a place to explain its technical aspects, review existing state and federal regulations and examine potential environmental impacts and concerns associated with hydraulic fracturing and activities directly related to its use.

This forum will also be a place to explore safety and environmental best practices and share information on leasing land for oil and gas drilling and hydraulic fracturing operations. And, finally, it’s an opportunity to identify the gaps in our knowledge and outline research questions that will help fill those gaps.

We’re pleased to know the topic is of great interest in Wyoming. Registration for the forum is full and a waiting list has been created. We’ll make the proceedings available following the forum so if you can’t attend you’ll be able to learn what was accomplished.

We know hydraulic fracturing generates a great deal of interest because a great deal is at stake. The United States needs energy, and that energy is located where many people live. For that reason, we know a lot of questions have arisen about the use of hydraulic fracturing, and we know how to start to develop answers.

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