As the editor of MIT Technology Review, I spend much of my time thinking about the types of stories and journalism that will be most valuable to our readers. What do curious, well-informed readers need to know about emerging technologies? As a writer, I am particularly interested these days in the intersection of chemistry, materials science, energy, manufacturing, and economics.
Over the last several years, vast amounts of natural gas have been found in the Marcellus shale that lies underneath vast areas of western New York, western and northern Pennsylvania, and parts of Ohio and West Virginia. If geologists are right, the Marcellus shale could be the world’s second-largest natural-gas field in the world. The natural gas is held tightly trapped in the shale, but advanced drilling techniques have made it economical to drill for the gas. Much of the activity is centered in the counties south of Pittsburgh.
This speeded-up video shows how a natural-gas drilling rig, at a Range Resources site, can be quickly moved to drill a series of wells, each only a few feet apart. The specially designed, multi-ton rig “walks” from one well to the next, allowing Range to efficiently drill a half-dozen wells at the site.
Economically recovering natural gas from shale deposits depends on advanced drilling techniques. This video illustrates how horizontal drilling allows gas producers to follow a shale deposit for up to a mile, greatly increasing the productivity of the well. It also illustrates the technique of “fracturing,” in which large volumes of water are used to shatter the shale, allowing the natural gas to flow to the well.