Appalachian Basin

Why I’m Pursuing A Natural Gas Career

A West Virginia University student discusses how the environmental, technical, and economic issues surrounding natural gas extraction in the Marcellus Shale region have all affected him personally.  

As a native Pennsylvanian who hopes to forge a career in natural gas drilling and production, natural gas development has already impacted me on several different levels. I grew up camping, fishing, and hiking in the beautiful and wild Northern Tier of Pennsylvania and I have fallen in love with the natural beauty of this area. I am familiar with the small towns and the pace of life in these areas and I appreciate the rugged beauty and tranquility of this region.

Unfortunately, behind this veil of beauty there is a visible and palpable sense of loss and decay in the region. Shuttered businesses and decaying homes dot the landscape. I realize how critical the natural gas industry is to the families and businesses that choose to call these areas home. As a student who aspires to work as a petroleum engineer, I wish to see natural gas production activities expand in this region so it can help this region thrive and help its inhabitants improve their quality of life.

I enrolled at West Virginia University because I am particularly interested in researching and developing ways to produce natural gas more efficiently and with greater environmental stewardship in mind. One topic of interest is research into the reuse of acid mine drainage for application in hydraulic fracturing operations. I believe it is the energy engineer’s mandate to develop innovative solutions to technical issues such as this, and I am eager to join the effort.

The natural gas industry will continue to work in tandem with regulatory agencies, business development organizations, industry and university-led research consortia, and conservation groups to simultaneously create economic growth and protect natural resources. I want to be a part of the next generation of engineers who are working to design sustainable and innovative solutions to energy extraction challenges. My studies in petroleum engineering are preparing me to make a meaningful and positive contribution to my community, our environment, and our nation.

My decision to commit to this course of study spawned from youthful curiosity and interest in geography, geology, and international relations. Beginning in my early teens, each morning I would eagerly delve into the Philadelphia Inquirer International and Science/Technology sections to learn about the world beyond my neighborhood and discover how my interests are interrelated. As I grew into an adult, I began to see the direct connection between international events such as political upheaval in the Middle East or hurricane season in the Gulf of Mexico and their impact on energy cost and production.

News of the increasing deployment of horizontal drilling technology to extract natural gas from deep beneath my home state of Pennsylvania was the deciding factor in my decision to commit to petroleum engineering as a career path. It is a profession that embraces innovative and collaborative approaches to solving complex problems. The mandate of a petroleum engineer is to develop—responsibly, safely, and economically—the solutions to society’s increasing energy needs.

I chose this career path because it presents an opportunity to make a positive and lasting contribution towards responsible and safe natural gas development in my home state, as well as petroleum exploration and production operations around the world. My interest in geology and the application of mathematical methods to solve real-world problems make petroleum engineering especially appealing. I hope to parlay my engineering education with my Spanish, French, and Arabic proficiency into a career in the energy industry where I will have an opportunity to explore our world.

Moreover, growing up in Pennsylvania and going on camping trips to the areas where Marcellus Shale drilling operations are occurring have made me want to contribute to making the process of natural gas extraction safer for the environment. That’s the Pennsylvanian in me. Yet, the energy industry is truly global: from operations to refining and distribution, this industry brings together people of every nation, language, and culture. There is, from my perspective, nothing else like it and certainly nothing else with as much potential to do good for our environment, our economy and our world.


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