National experts both for and against hydraulic fracturing (fracking) are presenting a free public series of seminars at Northwestern University during the month of April.

They will discuss for a general audience the method being used to extract oil and natural gas from rock deep within the earth. The goal of the series is to enlighten rather than to conclude.

The series, with five experts representing universities, the petroleum industry and the Congressional Research Service, will be held at the Technological Institute, 2145 Sheridan Road.

The impact of fracking cannot be underestimated. In the past decade, the United States has moved from being a potential importer of natural gas to being poised to pass Russia as the largest producer of natural gas in the world.

“There is understandable concern and anxiety about this technology,” said Charles H. Dowdling, a rock mechanics expert who organized the seminar series. “Additional research, regulation and education of specialists are needed to ensure environmentally sustainable production of oil and gas. We are offering our speakers and audiences a neutral environment in which to address related issues.”

Mr. Dowdling is a professor of civil and environmental engineering in the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science.

Recent advances in drilling technology have resulted in an increased emphasis on tight shale gas, natural gas locked in joints and pockets within low-porosity rock. This source rock can be found in almost every region of the U.S., making hydraulic fracturing a national issue.

All seminars will be held in Room LR5 in the Technological Institute. The audience will have an opportunity to ask questions at the end of each session.

The series began last week, and upcoming speakers and their topics are:

“Fracking the Marcellus in Pennsylvania,” 4:30 p.m. on April 11. Speaker: Arthur Rose, professor emeritus of geochemistry, Pennsylvania State University.

“Industrialization of the Shale Gas Operation,” 7:30 p.m. on April 17. Speaker: Anthony Ingraffea, the Dwight C. Baum Professor of Engineering, Cornell University.

“Where Are We Today? Reservoir and Completion Quality” and “Current Economic and Policy Impacts,” 4:30 p.m. on April 30. Speakers: Sidney Green, senior advisor, Schlumberger Ltd., and Michael Ratner, energy policy specialist, Congressional Research Service.

More information is available at