The Department of Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) and its partners, West Virginia University (WVU), Northeast Natural Energy (NNE), and The Ohio State University, are moving forward on a project to monitor the process and progress of unconventional gas production at a Marcellus Shale well near Morgantown, WV.    

The Marcellus Shale Energy and Environmental Laboratory (MSEEL) project—the first of its kind—will enable continuous monitoring of produced water and air quality. The project also gives researchers access to a dedicated science well for subsurface geophysical observation while NNE deploys a range of next-generation well-completion technologies designed to increase operational efficiency and reduce environmental impact. MSEEL will also provide a venue to train and educate next-generation scientists and engineers.

NNE will begin drilling the science observation well and two production wells at their site in the Morgantown Industrial Park on June 27, 2015. Researchers will use the vertical science well, situated between the two horizontal production wells, to gather valuable information that will assist with optimizing well placement and hydraulic fracture design with the Marcellus Shale.  They will also monitor activity during the fracture stimulation of the production wells. During the drilling process, approximately 100 feet of whole core and 50 1-inch sidewall cores will be extracted from the science well for geophysical, geochemical, and microbiological investigation.

At the same time, WVU will continue to monitor and assess baseline air, noise, light, and water, which it has done since the project was launched in late 2014.

During final drilling and completion operations of the two production wells later this fall, NNE will deploy technologies not yet widely utilized in the industry to assess their potential to improve operational efficiency and lower the overall environmental footprint of unconventional oil and gas operations. Some of these technologies include bi-fuel (e.g., natural gas and diesel) drilling and completion units, dissolvable fracture plugs, coil-assisted fracturing, and dynamically engineered fracture design based on logging-while-drilling of the production laterals – the horizontal portion of production wells where resource recovery occurs.

NETL, the U.S. Department of Energy’s national laboratory devoted to fossil energy research, has long been recognized as a world leader in the field. With its strategic location in Appalachia, NETL has decades of experience developing and fostering cutting-edge technology to promote efficient and environmentally friendly use of the region’s coal, oil, and gas resources.