04/12/2013

The Lab's Bohlen sits on new panel to advise EPA on 'fracking'

Anne M Stark, LLNL, (925) 422-9799, stark8@llnl.gov



Steve Bohlen
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has formed an independent body to peer-review that agency's research on hydraulic fracturing.

The Hydraulic Fracturing Research Advisory Panel, a group of 31 academics and experts, was created by EPA's Science Advisory Board (SAB) to review a congressionally ordered report looking at the potential health impacts of hydraulic fracturing on drinking water.

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory's Steve Bohlen, until recently deputy program director for Energy and Environmental Security for the Office of Strategic Outcomes, sits on this new advisory panel. His appointment stems from his work for the past 16 months to develop a shale gas program at the Lab in which advanced technologies developed for other purposes are integrated into standard industry practice via industrial partnerships.

"This work has given me a fair amount of visibility in the shale gas arena and insights into advanced technologies that are of interest to companies and have the potential to reduce the environmental footprint of unconventional oil and gas development and production," Bohlen said.

Previous to joining the Lab in 2011, Bohlen was a research professor at Texas A&M University, president of the Joint Oceanographic Institutions and held several positions at the U.S. Geological Survey.

The EPA group's formation comes as administration officials are working to revise draft rules on the practice. Hydraulic fracturing, known as "fracking," involves high-pressure injections of water, chemicals and sand into shale formations to open fractures that enable hydrocarbons to flow. Proponents, including the energy industry, say fracking technology has unlocked vast amounts of oil and gas that were previously out of reach and can help set the nation on a course toward energy independence. Environmental groups and other critics warn that the chemicals involved could have dire consequences for the environment and could be detrimental to public health.

Three years ago, EPA announced plans to study those impacts following a request from Congress. The advisory panel was established to provide scientific feedback. The draft report is due out next year.


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