Terry Engelder, professor of geosciences, Penn State, has been named one of Foreign Policy Magazine's "Top 100 Global Thinkers" for 2011.
Engelder, along with Gary Lash, professor of geoscience, State University of New York, Fredonia, with whom he collaborates, and George P. Mitchell, Texas oilman, were designated number 36 on the list "for upending the geopolitics of energy."
In 1979, Mitchell backed the idea that breaking up shale containing natural gas deposits -- fracking -- would release vast reserves of natural gas. While fracking took years to perfect, the approach reordered the global balance of energy and the political power that comes with it, according to the magazine.
In 2008 Engelder and Lash estimated reserves of the U.S. Northeast's Marcellus shale formation at 50 trillion cubic feet. In 2009, Engelder revised the reserve estimate up to 489 trillion cubic feet, making it the world's largest unconventional natural gas reserve.
In 1983, under a National Science Foundation grant, Engelder began looking into natural fracking to generate fractures in gas shale. With Lash, he subsequently mapped the process in the Marcellus and other gas shale of the Appalachian basin. Because of the physical nature of the fractures in the Marcellus shale, they suggested that horizontal drilling -- drilling across the natural fractures of the formation -- would allow companies like Mitchell's in Texas to recover gas from the shale at economic costs even with the added expense of horizontal drilling. Their discovery applies to gas deposits globally.
"The 100 Global Thinkers" appear in the current issue of Foreign Policy Magazine. Engelder will be honored along with the rest of the Global Thinkers at a gala hosted by Washington Post Company CEO Don Graham. Foreign Policy magazine is an award-winning magazine of global politics, economics and ideas published by the Slate Group, a division of Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive, LLC.