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Faculty members participate in Marcellus Shale Drilling Rig Tour

September 26, 2013

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Saint Francis University faculty members recently had a rare opportunity to participate in a personalized Marcellus Shale Drilling Rig tour hosted by Rex Energy in Western Pennsylvania. Dr. John Harris, professor and chair of the Saint Francis University Engineering department, and Dr. Joel Bandstra, associate professor of Environment Engineering, were invited to participate in a Marcellus Shale Drilling Rig Tour by Rex Energy headquartered in Cranberry Township, PA, with main offices located in State College. Rex Energy is an independent energy company engaged in the acquisition, production, exploration and development of oil, natural gas and natural gas liquids. Derek Smith, senior director of HSE (HEALTH, SAFETY AND ENVIRONMENT) for Rex Energy led the tour which entailed visiting three separate drilling sites, each in a different stage of operation: an active drilling site, a site that just completed hydraulic fracking and a completed functioning natural gas production field site.

Rex Energy has a reputation for environmental protection measures which are of interest to Saint Francis University from a curriculum and fieldwork perspective. The university launched a successful Environmental Engineering program in 2009 which received accreditation this summer, and is launching a Petroleum and Natural Gas Engineering program in Fall 2014.

“Since Saint Francis University will be admitting its first class of Petroleum and Natural Gas (PNG) Engineers in the Fall of 2014, we were excited at the opportunity of seeing firsthand what our PNG Engineers would be involved with in the field,” said Dr. John Harris, Chair of Engineering at Saint Francis University.

He further stated “What really stood out to me was how the drilling operations being carried out by REX Energy really focused on protecting the environment and water resources. And being able to visit three different sites we also were able to see how the drilling site transitioned through its various phases to the final gas production field. I was sort of surprised,” Dr. Harris added, “to see that the final gas production field was only about an acre in size with six or so gas wells neatly centered on it and everything around it restored to its former pre-drilling conditions.”

“Two of the sites we visited sat in the middle of corn fields,” said Dr. Joel Bandstra, Associate Professor of the ABET accredited Environmental Engineering program at SFU. “The RIG Tour really demonstrated to me the emphasis on environmental stewardship that REX Energy has undertaken. “ When asked about what similar environmental lessons and practices have been incorporated into the Petroleum and Natural Gas Engineering curriculum at SFU, Dr. Bandstra responded, “Our Petroleum and Natural Gas engineering program is a rigorous engineering program enhanced by a foundation of environmental stewardship. Our PNG engineering students will work side by side with our Environmental Engineers to become the next generation of qualified engineers who can combine analytical skills with a Franciscan approach to find safer and better ways to supply our planet's energy needs. Our recently completed 70,000 sq ft Science Center offers the perfect environment to accommodate this interdisciplinary approach to learning.”

Dr. Harris also stated “we envision our Petroleum and Natural Gas engineering students doing internships at companies like Rex Energy, working side-by side with industry professionals in the field and then carrying out undergraduate research back on campus to solve real world questions that arise as a result of the Marcellus Shale revolution.” “Developing relationships and partnerships with companies like Rex Energy enhance our students educational experience and provides rich opportunities for their learning and future careers.”

More information on the Petroleum and Natural Gas Engineering program at Saint Francis University can be found at francis.edu/petroleum-natural-gas-engineering/. More information about Rex Energy can be found at rexenergy.com.