January 2015 Meeting

Monday, January 12, 2015
6:00 - 7:30 pm

Pellissippi State Technical Community College
10915 Hardin Valley Road, Knoxville
J.L Goins Administration Building, Cafeteria Annex


Oil and Gas Resources and Impact on the Industry
of Horizontal Drilling and Fracking

Dr. Robert D. Hatcher, Jr.
UT Distinguished Scientist & Professor
Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences
and Science Alliance Center of Excellence
Knoxville, Tennessee


Texas, California, Louisiana, and Alaska have traditionally been the top producers of U.S. hydrocarbons. North Dakota has now become one of the top oil producers in the U.S. owing in large part to use of the horizontal drilling technology, which matured into widespread use in the 2000's for gas and oil production. Fracking of wells (practiced since the early 1900s) has made horizontal drilling a quite viable technology. Fracking involves use of some fracking agents (e.g., explosives, water-based liquids, nitrogen, and in the near future liquefied propane) to increase the fracture density and surface area in a rock unit, commonly shale today, to enhance recovery of oil or gas. Probably the greatest application of horizontal drilling and fracking technology has been in the Appalachian basin (Marcellus Shale in PA, WV, and KY; Chattanooga Shale in KY & TN); Eagle Ford Shale in the Gulf Coast region; the Barnett and Woodford Shales (Chattanooga Shale equivalent in Northern TX and Southern OK); and the Bakken Shale in ND (another Chattanooga Shale equivalent). Horizontal drilling has made the U.S. independent in natural gas, and oil production has moved the US up in the world rankings. The decline in world oil prices may make some "unconventional" oil (Bakken and Alberta tar sands) uneconomic in the short term.


Dr. Robert D. Hatcher, Jr. is currently a Distinguished Scientist and Professor with the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, Tennessee. Dr. Hatcher's primary research goal is to gain a better understanding of the evolution of continental crust, mostly through the study of mountain chains and mature crust. Most of his research has been concentrated in the southern and central Appalachians, but large amounts of time have been spent visiting and studying other mountain chains, and Precambrian continental crust. His primary interest is in the mechanics and kinematics of large faults, which formed a natural transition into related long-term interests in the geologic controls of petroleum occurrence in the Appalachians, radioactive waste management, the causes of intraplate seismicity and geologic evidence for determination of recurrence intervals for intraplate earthquakes. While a structural geologist, most of his research is interdisciplinary, integrating stratigraphic, geochronologic, geochemical, and geophysical data into structural studies. As a field geologist, however, his field data form the basis for all other supporting studies. He has been involved for many years with geophysicists and geologists in other academic institutions and the USGS in the geologic interpretation of seismic reflection and potential field (aeromagnetic and gravity) data. From 1981 through 1983 (part of the Bechtel team), he participated in the Electric Power Research Institute-sponsored study of eastern seismicity, and during the late 1970s and early 1980s participated in the TVA-sponsored Southern Appalachian Tectonic Study (with S. S. Alexander and W. J. Hinze, 1979-1980). Current research support includes a Nuclear Regulatory Commission grant for study of the East Tennessee seismic zone (through 2015), a USGS EDMAP grant (detailed geologic mapping of stream terraces around Douglas Lake), and a National Park Service grant (detailed geologic mapping, Obed W & SR region).


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