Terry Engelder, professor of geosciences at Penn State University who earned his doctorate at Texas A&M University and recently was named one of Foreign Policy magazine’s “Top 100 Global Thinkers,” will speak at Texas A&M Jan. 20 during a special lecture presentation.
Engelder’s topic will be “George Mitchell and Me: The Confluence of Geopolitics and Science of Texas-Style Gas Production in the State of Pennsylvania” and will be held at 3 p.m. in Stephen W. Hawking Auditorium in the George and Cynthia Woods Mitchell Institute for Physics and Astronomy. His lecture is free and open to the public and is sponsored by the Center for Tectonophysics and Department of Geology and Geophysics.
George P. Mitchell, a 1940 Texas A&M petroleum engineering graduate who went on to have a legendary career in the energy business, also was named along with Engelder as one of the magazine’s “Top 100 Global Thinkers.” They share the No. 36 spot.
Engelder earned his Ph.D. in geology from Texas A&M in 1973.
Both Mitchell and Engelder are considered experts on fracking, the process of breaking up shale containing natural gas deposits, “a development that led to releasing vast reserves of natural gas and reordered the global balance of energy and the political power that comes with it,” according to the magazine.
They were joined in sharing the 36th place with Gary Lash, a professor of geosciences at State University of New York-Fredonia.
Mitchell was a pioneer of horizontal drilling, and it took him 17 years of experimentation to demonstrate his approach to extracting gas from shale formations was economically feasible. His newfound technology has opened up immense gas reserves, among them the Marcellus Shale formation in the Northeast that Engelder estimated in 2009 to be the world’s largest at more than 500 trillion cubic feet.
In 1983, inspired by Mitchell’s groundbreaking work, Engelder received a National Science Foundation grant to investigate fracking further, and he and Lash began mapping the Marcellus Shale and other formations in the Appalachian basin.
Their work helped to recover gas more economically and efficiently, leading to the production of more than 4.8 trillion cubic feet between 2006 and 2010, almost quintupling previous U.S. shale gas production and accounting for almost one-fourth of U.S. natural gas production for that period.
“Terry Engelder is one of several distinguished scientists who conducted graduate student research during the early years of the Center for Tectonophysics and who completed their doctorates in the Departments of Geology and Geophysics,” says Fred Chester, Texas A&M geology professor who has known Engelder for many years
“After leaving A&M, in the early 1970s, Terry began a career of basic research of the tectonic stresses and fluid pressures that cause natural fracturing in shale and other rock formations. Of his many contributions, his pioneering work using mechanics principles and sound geological field studies to understand natural fracturing set the stage for his later outstanding contributions towards application of fracking technology.”
Mitchell, a longtime benefactor of Texas A&M, has contributed millions of dollars to the school and has committed $35.5 million toward construction of the Giant Magellan Telescope in his personal quest to see his alma mater become an international leader in physics and astronomy.
Currently on the faculty of Penn State, Engelder has previously served on the staffs of Texaco, the U.S. Geological Survey and Columbia University. He has also served as a visiting professor at Graz University in Austria and the University of Perugia in Italy. He has written more than 150 research papers, many of them focused on Appalachia.