Ale Hakala
Geochemist
National Energy Technology Laboratory
The recent boom in producing natural gas from the Marcellus Shale is generating an important new energy resource. However, we need publicly available scientific information about shale gas “systems” in order to make good decisions about development.  This need is what drives my professional interest—collecting the information to answer these questions about the potential environmental effects of shale gas development: What actually happens to the geologic formation when we conduct hydraulic fracturing at great depths? Do gases and fluids leak into shallower formations during shale gas development (if so, how)? What happens with wastes produced during energy development? Does shale gas development affect greenhouse gas levels in the atmosphere? What are the most efficient, accurate, and inexpensive tools for monitoring natural systems?

Through my work at the National Energy Technology Laboratory, I collaborate with teams of scientists and engineers from government agencies, universities, industry, and non-profit organizations. These teams perform research with the goal of addressing current concerns about shale gas in order to inform the community and its leaders.

As an environmental geochemist, my specific research interests are focused on how chemical reactions can increase the efficiency of producing energy while minimizing environmental impacts, how to monitor where these reactions are taking place, and how to monitor the sources of fluids and gases. I’ve spent most of my time researching how metals and organic compounds (both natural and manmade) interact in nature, in sites ranging from wetland sediments to surface waters to deep sandstone and shale formations. In my off hours, I also write a blog about geology, climate, and my personal passion: competitive snowboard cross racing.