Amber Schrum: Interview with Jason Hanna

Mr. Hanna graduated from Millersville University in 1995 with a bachelor’s degree in Engineering Geology and from Pennsylvania State University in 2002 with a master’s degree in Environmental Pollution Control. He has been working at Langan Engineering for 11 years where he focuses on pollution characterization and cleanup, and site redevelopment. He is also a member of the Marcellus Shale Coalition. This interview has been paraphrased.

Q: What do you typically work on at Langan Engineering?
A: A host of environmental services, including site assessments, site characterization, and site cleanups according to state and federal standards. We also support design and permitting for compliance with regulations for gas and oil companies.

Q: What would be the ideal well pad location for a natural gas company?
A: Ideally you would want flat land that minimizes the potential for erosion. If you can, you do not want to avoid impacts to natural resources such as wetlands and waterways. At Langan, we identify the natural resources the gas company should avoid and we design to avoid or minimize impacts to these resources, which also simplifies the permitting processes.

Q: You also work on the designs for natural gas pipelines. What is normally covered in those designs?
A: We complete desktop routing using GIS, or picking the path, for the pipeline. We identify and design to avoid natural resources, such as wetlands and waterways. We design erosion and sediment controls that keep the soil from eroding into nearby streams, and we complete the earthwork analyses and design site restoration. We specialize in performing geotechnical investigations for when a pipeline needs to go under a complex structure, like a river or highway system.

Q: I know that you are involved with the natural gas designs. Does Langan conduct any projects with the coal industry?
A: In western Pennsylvania seepage of acid water from coal mines is really a problem. Currently many responsible parties are treating it actively, mixing it with lime to lower the acidity, settling out the solids from the water and then disposing of the leftover sludge. At a couple sites, we are converting this active process to a passive one by removing the pumping and electricity. After studying the hydrology of the site, we build passive mine water treatment systems so that the system is gravity fed. It is lower maintenance, more sustainable and greener. Acid mine drainage is also being considered for reuse in fracking. The issue is the sulfate levels and solids dissolved in the water. When injected into the Marcellus Shale where there are high levels of barium in the formation, the sulfate in the water combines with it to form barium sulfate that precipitates out as a solid. This actually clogs the formation when you are trying to open it for gas to flow. So there is a lot of research going on to address this issue.

Q: Do you personally think that decreasing advantages of natural gas over coal will impact the political push for shale gas?
A: I do not think that it will change anything politically. Politicians are focused on job creation and the economy rather than the environment. The environment just is not the most important thing to most politicians. Shale gas is job creation here in the U.S., homegrown. It is not just natural gas production; it is also natural gas liquids and ethane, which is used to make ethylene for plastics manufacturing. The next big question is do we build plastics manufacturing here or do we export the ethylene we are producing from shale liquids to other countries where plastics manufacturing is already established.

Q: Do you personally think that the move to natural gas is going to limit the move to renewables?
A: What’s surprising when you look at the funding sources for renewables is that the development and research for renewables is largely funded by the big oil companies. I personally think there will not be fewer incentives and subsidies from the government for renewables. We should not be offsetting the progress of renewables, and we should be using money from gas development to fund renewable research. Natural gas is better than coal, and can be used as a bridge fuel. “If we could be operating completely on solar and wind we would.” Everyone is still just as anxious to get to renewables.