A consortium of researchers and industrial partners led by West Virginia University, with the assistance of Ohio State University, will conduct the first long-term, comprehensive field study of shale gas.

The five-year, $11 million agreement with the U.S. Department of Energy will allow the research team to create and manage the Marcellus Shale Energy and Environment Laboratory, a field site and dedicated research laboratory at the Morgantown Industrial Park.

Together with the DOE’s National Energy Technology Laboratory and Northeast Natural Energy—a Charleston-based private oil and natural gas company that owns and operates the site—a team of geoscientists, hydrologists, engineers, ecologists, social scientists and public health professionals, will identify and demonstrate technologies required for best practices in environmentally responsible shale development, from drilling to completion through production. Additionally, the lab will offer real-world education and training for undergraduate and graduate students to address the complex technical, environmental and social issues surrounding unconventional energy development and production.

“To date, there has been no comprehensive long-term field study that addresses baseline measurements, subsurface development and environmental monitoring with unconventional resource development,” said Timothy Carr, WVU’s Marshall Miller professor of geology, principal investigator of the award and director of the lab.“No other study can replicate and validate results with subsequent drilling and completion events. The only way to integrate the three is to conduct long-term research on a single site, which is what we are going to be able to do.”

Ohio State will work with WVU to provide support of subsurface scientific investigations of the geology and microbiology from samples taken in the drill hole, along with guidance and support for the environmental work at the site.