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The Economic Case for Wind and Solar Energy in Africa

To meet skyrocketing demand for electricity, African countries may have to triple their energy output by 2030. While hydropower and fossil fuel power plants are favored approaches in some quarters, a new assessment by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory has found that wind and solar can be economically and environmentally competitive options and can contribute significantly to the rising demand.

Chemists ID Catalytic 'Key' for Converting CO2 to Methanol

Results from experiments and computational modeling studies that definitively identify the "active site" of a catalyst commonly used for making methanol from CO2 will guide the design of improved catalysts for transforming this pollutant to useful chemicals.

Cryo-Electron Microscopy Achieves Unprecedented Resolution Using New Computational Methods

Cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM)--which enables the visualization of viruses, proteins, and other biological structures at the molecular level--is a critical tool used to advance biochemical knowledge. Now Berkeley Lab researchers have extended cryo-EM's impact further by developing a new computational algorithm instrumental in constructing a 3-D atomic-scale model of bacteriophage P22 for the first time.

New Study Maps Space Dust in 3-D

A new Berkeley Lab-led study provides detailed 3-D views of space dust in the Milky Way, which could help us understand the properties of this dust and how it affects views of distant objects.

Single-Angle Ptychography Allows 3D Imaging of Stressed Materials

Scientists have used a new X-ray diffraction technique called Bragg single-angle ptychography to get a clear picture of how planes of atoms shift and squeeze under stress.

New Feedback System Could Allow Greater Control Over Fusion Plasma

A physicist has created a new system that will let scientists control the energy and rotation of plasma in real time in a doughnut-shaped machine known as a tokamak.

Towards Super-Efficient, Ultra-Thin Silicon Solar Cells

Researchers from Ames Laboratory used supercomputers at NERSC to evaluate a novel approach for creating more energy-efficient ultra-thin crystalline silicon solar cells by optimizing nanophotonic light trapping.

Study IDs Link Between Sugar Signaling and Regulation of Oil Production in Plants

UPTON, NY--Even plants have to live on an energy budget. While they're known for converting solar energy into chemical energy in the form of sugars, plants have sophisticated biochemical mechanisms for regulating how they spend that energy. Making oils costs a lot. By exploring the details of this delicate energy balance, a group of scientists from the U.

High-Energy Electrons Probe Ultrafast Atomic Motion

A new technique synchronized high-energy electrons with an ultrafast laser pulse to probe how vibrational states of atoms change in time.

Rare Earth Recycling

A new energy-efficient separation of rare earth elements could provide a new domestic source of critical materials.


Jefferson Lab Accomplishes Critical Milestones Toward Completion of 12 GeV Upgrade

The Continuous Electron Beam Accelerator Facility (CEBAF) at the U.S. Department of Energy's Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility has achieved two major commissioning milestones and is now entering the final stretch of work to conclude its first major upgrade. Recently, the CEBAF accelerator delivered electron beams into two of its experimental halls, Halls B and C, at energies not possible before the upgrade for commissioning of the experimental equipment currently in each hall. Data were recorded in each hall, which were then confirmed to be of sufficient quality to allow for particle identification, a primary indicator of good detector operation.

Valerie Taylor Named Argonne National Laboratory's Mathematics and Computer Science Division Director

Computer scientist Valerie Taylor has been appointed as the next director of the Mathematics and Computer Science division at Argonne, effective July 3, 2017.

Three SLAC Employees Awarded Lab's Highest Honor

At a March 7 ceremony, three employees of the Department of Energy's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory were awarded the lab's highest honor ­- the SLAC Director's Award.

Dan Sinars Represents Sandia in First Energy Leadership Class

Dan Sinars, a senior manager in Sandia National Laboratories' pulsed power center, which built and operates the Z facility, is the sole representative from a nuclear weapons lab in a new Department of Energy leadership program that recently visited Sandia.

ORNL, HTS International Corporation to Collaborate on Manufacturing Research

HTS International Corporation and the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory have signed an agreement to explore potential collaborations in advanced manufacturing research.

Jefferson Lab Director Honored with Energy Secretary Award

Hugh Montgomery, director of the Department of Energy's Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility (Jefferson Lab), was awarded The Secretary's Distinguished Service Award by the Secretary of Energy earlier this year.

New Projects to Make Geothermal Energy More Economically Attractive

Geothermal energy, a clean, renewable source of energy produced by the heat of the earth, provides about 6 percent of California's total power. That number could be much higher if associated costs were lower. Now scientists at the Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) have launched two California Energy Commission-funded projects aimed at making geothermal energy more cost-effective to deploy and operate.

Southern Research Project Advances Novel CO2 Utilization Strategy

The U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Fossil Energy has awarded Southern Research nearly $800,000 for a project that targets a more cost-efficient and environmentally friendly method of producing some of the most important chemicals used in manufacturing.

Harker School Wins 2017 SLAC Regional Science Bowl Competition

After losing its first match of the day to the defending champions, The Harker School's team won 10 consecutive rounds to claim victory in the annual SLAC Regional DOE Science Bowl on Saturday, Feb. 11.

Francis Alexander Named Deputy Director of Brookhaven Lab's Computational Science Initiative

Alexander brings extensive management and leadership experience in computational science research to the position.


High-Energy Electrons Probe Ultrafast Atomic Motion

A new technique synchronized high-energy electrons with an ultrafast laser pulse to probe how vibrational states of atoms change in time.

Rare Earth Recycling

A new energy-efficient separation of rare earth elements could provide a new domestic source of critical materials.

Modeling the "Flicker" of Gluons in Subatomic Smashups

A new model identifies a high degree of fluctuations in the glue-like particles that bind quarks within protons as essential to explaining proton structure.

Rare Nickel Atom Has "Doubly Magic" Structure

Supercomputing calculations confirm that rare nickel-78 has unusual structure, offering insights into supernovas.

Microbial Activity in the Subsurface Contributes to Greenhouse Gas Fluxes

Natural carbon dioxide production from deep subsurface soils contributes significantly to emissions, even in a semiarid floodplain.

Stretching a Metal Into an Insulator

Straining a thin film controllably allows tuning of the materials' magnetic, electronic, and catalytic properties, essential for new energy and electronic devices.

How Moisture Affects the Way Soil Microbes Breathe

Study models soil-pore features that hold or release carbon dioxide.

ARM Data Is for the Birds

Scientists use LIDAR and radar data to study bird migration patterns, thanks to the Atmospheric Radiation Measurement (ARM) Climate Research Facility.

The Future of Coastal Flooding

Better storm surge prediction capabilities could help reduce the impacts of extreme weather events, such as hurricanes.

Estimating Global Energy Use for Water-Related Processes

Scientists find that water-related energy consumption is increasing across the globe, with pronounced differences across regions and sectors.


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Middle Schoolers Test Their Knowledge at Science Bowl Competition

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Haslam Visits ORNL to Highlight State's Role in Discovering Tennessine

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Internship Program Helps Foster Development of Future Nuclear Scientists

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More Than 12,000 Explore Jefferson Lab During April 30 Open House

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NMSU Undergrad Tackles 3D Particle Scattering Animations After Receiving JSA Research Assistantship

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Shannon Greco: A Self-Described "STEM Education Zealot"

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University of Utah Makes Solar Accessible

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Fracking in Michigan: U-M Researchers Study Potential Impact on Health, Environment, Economy

Article ID: 596582

Released: 2012-11-28 11:45:00

Source Newsroom: University of Michigan

Jim Erickson, (734) 647-1842, ericksn@umich.edu

ANN ARBOR—University of Michigan researchers are conducting a detailed study of the potential environmental and societal effects of hydraulic fracturing, the controversial natural gas drilling process known as fracking.

In hydraulic fracturing, large amounts of water, sand and chemicals are injected deep underground to break apart rock and free trapped natural gas. Though the process has been used for decades, recent technical advances have helped unlock vast stores of previously inaccessible natural gas, resulting in a fracking boom.

Now U-M researchers are working with government regulators, oil and gas industry representatives and environmental groups to explore seven critical areas related to the use of hydraulic fracturing in Michigan: human health, the environment and ecology, economics, technology, public perception, law and policy, and geology/hydrodynamics.

Detailed technical reports on the seven subject areas are to be released early next year for public comment.

"While there have been numerous scientific studies about hydraulic fracturing in the United States, none have been conducted with a focus on Michigan," said John Callewaert, director of integrated assessment at U-M's Graham Sustainability Institute, which is overseeing the study.

The research teams kicked off the first phase of their two-year research project last month with support from four university units: the Graham Sustainability Institute, the Erb Institute for Global Sustainable Enterprise, the Energy Institute and the Risk Science Center. Industry representatives, nongovernmental organizations, state government officials, academic experts and other stakeholders are providing input.

During a policy address on energy and the environment today at Michigan State University's W.K. Kellogg Biological Station, Gov. Rick Snyder noted that the state will be a partner in the U-M-led fracking study.

"We're going to be a partner with the University of Michigan's Graham Sustainability Institute on doing a study on where fracking's going," Snyder said. "Fracking is something that is very serious and it needs to be done the right way.

"Let's be at the forefront of being environmentally responsible when we look at these energy issues. And let's do this in a way where we're working together."

The U-M-led research teams will draw on their findings for the second phase of the project, which will outline a range of environmental, economic, social and technological approaches to assist stakeholders in shaping hydraulic fracturing policies and practices in Michigan. The researchers will present their overall findings and policy recommendations in 2014.

Of particular interest is the increasing use of horizontal drilling, whereby drilling is conducted horizontally to expose the drill bore to more shale rock formation. In those cases where shale fracturing is required, water with added chemicals is injected into the reservoir rock at high pressure to cause the rock to fracture and open up for gas extraction.

"Hydraulic fracturing has been around for decades, but with horizontal drilling now coming into play, people are increasingly questioning and scrutinizing the risks involved," said Andrew Maynard, professor of environmental health sciences and director of U-M's Risk Science Center.

"Areas of concern include perceived lack of transparency, potential chemical contamination, water availability, waste water disposal, and impacts on ecosystems, human health and surrounding areas."

Callewaert said there are currently only a small number of active drilling sites in Michigan that use high-volume horizontal drilling in conjunction with hydraulic fracturing.

"There's a lot of interest, but there really isn't that much activity at the moment in Michigan," he said. "That's why this is a good time to do the assessment."

One of the stakeholders engaged in the project is Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council, an environmental nonprofit organization in northern Michigan near the Antrim Shale Formation, which stretches through six counties across the top of Michigan's Lower Peninsula, from Lake Michigan on the west to Lake Huron on the east.

"What concerns us is the application of horizontal hydraulic fracturing," said Tip of the Mitt Program Director Grenetta Thomassey, who sits on the project steering committee. "We are very glad to be working with the University of Michigan and the Graham Institute in taking a proactive, multidisciplinary look at the impacts and implications of this practice, and what to do about them, both now and in the long run."

The two-year study uses a collaborative research methodology called integrated assessment, which, according to Callewaert, is ideally suited for addressing complex sustainability challenges.

"There are many different perspectives on hydraulic fracturing," Callewaert said. "But, fortunately, we've been able to draw together some exceptional researchers across multiple disciplines at U-M, as well as several key stakeholders, in order to conduct a thorough, unbiased assessment to help determine what new approaches might be needed for Michigan."

Greg Fogle, a 40-year oil and gas industry veteran, is a representative of the Michigan Oil and Gas Association, a stakeholder in the project.

"MOGA is proud of the industry's record of conducting hydraulic fracturing safely and without environmental incident since 1948," Fogle said. "We believe this project will demonstrate how Michigan is a national model when it comes to regulating hydraulic fracturing and ensuring proper safeguards for keeping water, air and land protected."

John DeVries, a U-M Law School graduate and a steering committee member specializing in oil and gas law, emphasized the importance of a multifaceted investigation.

"This unbiased, science-based study will investigate not only the potential environmental risks of hydraulic fracturing but also the potential air quality and economic benefits of using the domestic, low-cost natural gas produced by hydraulic fracturing for electrical generation and manufacturing," DeVries said.

Erb Institute Director Andrew Hoffman is one of the researchers working on the social issues and public perception report.

"Hydraulic fracturing has the potential to touch issues that virtually all Michigan residents care about: drinking water, air quality, Great Lakes health, water supply, local land use, energy security, economic growth, tourism and natural resource protection," Hoffman said. "In the end, our goal is to provide valuable insights and information to help address these important and legitimate concerns here in the Great Lakes State."

In addition to the Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council and MOGA, other stakeholders and organizations engaged in the "Hydraulic Fracturing in Michigan Integrated Assessment" include the Michigan governor's office, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and the Michigan Environmental Council.

U-M researchers include: Nil Basu, School of Public Health; Allen Burton, School of Natural Resources and Environment; Knute Nadelhoffer, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology; Rolland Zullo, Institute for Research on Labor, Employment, and the Economy; Johannes Schwank, Department of Chemical Engineering; John Wilson, U-M Energy Institute; Kim Wolske and Andrew Hoffman, the Erb Institute; Sara Gosman, Law School; and Brian Ellis, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering.

As part of the investigation, research teams are soliciting input from the public through an online comment form on the Graham Institute website. To learn more about the study or to provide input via the online comment tool, visit the "Problem Solving" section of the Graham Institute website at www.graham.umich.edu/ia/hydraulic-fracturing.php or contact John Callewaert at (734) 615-3752 or jcallew@umich.edu.

EDITORS: Watch and link to a U-M video about hydraulic fracturing at

http://mconnex.engin.umich.edu/michepedia/2012/the-impact-of-fracking