By Kathryn Kopchik
LEWISBURG, Pa. — Recent Bucknell University graduate Christopher Kulish has received a Student Research Award from the Pennsylvania Water Environment Association (PWEA) for his research work related to characterization and treatment of the brine wastewater generated by hydraulic fracturing of Marcellus Shale for natural gas extraction.
Kulish, who graduated in May from Bucknell with a degree in civil and environmental engineering, was honored for his research paper, "Marcellus Shale Natural Gas Wastewater Characterization and Treatment, and Susquehanna Watershed Total Dissolved Solids Analysis." The paper was selected by PWEA's Research Committee for both podium and poster presentations at the 2010 annual conference, PennTec, in State College, on June 14.
For his research paper and presentation, Kulish received a $250 award check and participated in the "Research Session and Discussion on Sustainable Environment" session at the conference.
Growing environmental impact
As natural gas extraction from the Marcellus shale in Pennsylvania grows exponentially, the potential for environmental impact grows, as evidenced by the well blowout that occurred in Clearfield County on June 3-4.
"The brine that flows back out of a hydraulically fractured well is up to six times saltier than sea water, according to Chris's data," said Kevin Gilmore, visiting assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering and Chris's advisor for the research work.
"Chris's work has provided more information as to the chemical makeup of this wastewater, helping researchers and practitioners develop more appropriate strategies for treating the contaminants."
Unique undergrad honor
Of the six students from across Pennsylvania universities, Kulish was the single student whose award honored research conducted at the undergraduate level, according to Gilmore.
"This fact underscores the quality and impact of the research that Chris conducted and exemplifies one of the missions of Bucknell University, to engage students at the undergraduate level in the research and scholarship of faculty," he said.
Kulish is beginning work toward a Master of Science degree in civil and environmental engineering at Bucknell, with a focus on geotechnical engineering.
"Speaking at the PWEA conference was THE best way to bring closure to the research project," said Kulish. "I really enjoyed internalizing the work to find meaning and motivation behind each component while summarizing the main points to an audience."
The research work, conducted over the summer and fall semester of 2009, is part of a broader team of Bucknell investigators including Gilmore; Carl Kirby, professor of geology; Matt Higgins, professor of civil and environmental engineering; recent geology graduate Molly Pritz; Huan Luong, environmental lab director; and Kyle Narsavage, Environmental Health and Safety.
Funding sources include the Katherine Mabis McKenna Summer Environmental Internship Program and the Pennsylvania Water Resources Research Center Small Grants Program.
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