Jessica Lu, 2017, Civil and Environmental Engineering

Over the summer, I was given the opportunity to join the Zondlo Group, where I gained valuable research experience. The current project is an extensive field study that seeks to quantify fugitive methane emissions from fracking in the Marcellus Shale. Even though the combustion of natural gas results in less carbon dioxide emissions, methane’s stronger global warming potential can offset the perceived benefits. As natural gas becomes increasingly important to the energy market, methane – the main component of natural gas – will play a more critical role in understanding climate change. In the field, we deployed innovative sensor technologies to measure concentrations of several greenhouse gases (methane, carbon dioxide, and water vapor) at pre-selected fracking sites. Currently, I am working on calculating emission rates from the data we collected using a standard inverse Gaussian plume model. By combining our data with publicly available databases on fracking sites, we can begin to understand the distribution of emission rates, the variability, and economic implications.