Exxon Mobil geologist visits BPHS science classes

Russell Finelsen, Staff Writer, Assistant Editor, Sports Editor

On Wednesday, Feb. 18, Dr. Fred Zelt, a geologist, came to BPHS, where he talked to science classes throughout the day. He talked about many things, including geology, geoscience, Marcellus Shale, oil wells, and jobs in the field.

Zelt was a Bethel Park graduate, but even before the graduation ceremony, he was not sure what he would do when he grew up. However, he soon became a geology fan after being a student in Mr. Carter’s Geology class. This led him to get a Bachelor of Science degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). He then continued onto Princeton, where he earned his Master of Science and Ph.D. in Geoscience.

Zelt then joined Exxon Mobil. He has worked there the last 30 years, where he has visited many places for business. In Norway, England, and Louisiana, Zelt examined land in the areas to see if it was fit to dig for oil and natural gas. He is now the Vice President of the company and resides in Houston, Texas.

Zelt started his presentation with the history of shale gas usage. It was first used commercially in the US in 1823, but faced its challenges.

“Shale gas,” Zelt said, “was competed against even back then. Back then, they had whale oil to power candles and fires.”

Since then, shale wells have been growing in popularity.

“In Pennsylvania,” Zelt said, “more than 350,000 conventional gas and oil wells have been drilled since 1859.”

Zelt then explained the entire oil and gas industry. This encompassed the way that Exxon Mobil makes the environment safe, how wells are drilled, and the process of hydraulic fracturing. He also explained the difference of horizontal drilling to vertical drilling, and why one is better than the other.

“Horizontal drilling is best because you can [hit more spots] that have oil,” Zelt said. “Vertical drilling will not get as much oil or gas.”

During the display, Zelt passed around different samples of shale and coal that all had different chemical compositions. Packets were also passed around the room that illustrated different jobs in the field and other information about natural gas.

He also talked about this in his presentation. He told students about the jobs available in the oil and gas fields, what degrees are needed, and how much money one could make in each job.

“There are many jobs in the oil and gas fields,” Zelt said.

At the end of the presentation, Zelt answered students’ and teachers’ questions about his presentation.

The presentation was very educational and edifying for those who are interested in becoming a geologist. Even those who do not know what they want to do when they grow up, this demonstration showed that there are always jobs involving natural gas and oil.