With the increasing production of natural gas from shale deposits such as the Marcellus, Utica and Devonian formations, and the use of new technology to reach these deep reserves, West Virginia University is sponsoring a two-day National Research Council workshop to identify technical issues, best practices, policy dimensions and areas where more research is needed.

WVU approached the National Academy of Sciences about sponsoring the workshop in keeping with its mandate as a land-grant research institution.

“As shale gas becomes a larger part of our nation’s energy mix, it creates both opportunities and challenges,” WVU Chief of Staff Jay Cole said. “As a land-grant, flagship, research university, WVU has a special obligation to help industry and government with these issues and to identify the questions that remain to be answered. We believe this workshop will be a significant step in that direction.”

Presenters and speakers will feature representatives from academia, industry and government, including the National Energy Technology Laboratory, the U.S. Geological Survey, the EPA, the Nature Conservancy, ExxonMobil and Range Resources, as well as researchers from 12 universities.

“The National Academy of Sciences is the science advisor to the nation. By sponsoring this workshop conducted by NAS, WVU is bringing the gold-standard for scientific data and expert analysis into the state’s discussions about shale,” Cole said. “Our goal with this workshop is to get as much information on the table as possible to inform policy, help industry, and educate citizens in West Virginia and the surrounding region.”

The forum, entitled “Workshop on the Development of Unconventional Hydrocarbon Resources in the Appalachian Basin,” will be held Sept. 9-10 at the Erickson Alumni Center. It will be webcast live at http://www.tvworldwide.com/events/nas/130909/. A remote viewing site will be available in the Shenandoah Room of the Mountainlair during both days.

“In addition to relevant land use and land management considerations, there are many scientific uncertainties regarding the full implications of extraction of natural gas from shale formations using technologies that involve horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing,” the workshop proposal says.

The workshop will review geology and hydrocarbon resources; potential effects on surface and groundwater quality and quantity; potential effects on landscapes, including soil and living organisms and other environmental systems; and technical and engineering processes.

The National Research Council, the operating arm of the National Academy of Sciences, will summarize the discussions, reports and priorities for future scientific and engineering research as identified by the workshop participants. The summary will be available to the public on the Research Council’s website: http://www.nap.edu/

The proposal notes that states with shale resources such as West Virginia, Ohio and Pennsylvania did not have “the long-term experience, regulatory frameworks, baseline environmental information, or pre-existing infrastructure related to shale gas production” when the technology to produce the resource became commercially viable.

“The workshop will help identify the gaps in our knowledge where additional research is needed to better inform our citizens,” said Fred King, WVU vice president of research. “Because it will help stakeholders develop their research agenda, it provides an opportunity for our researchers to consider how their skills in shale geology, environment, engineering, as well as public policy address can be utilized to fill those gaps with support from public and private sources.

“We recognize that the topic is one of international significance, and believe that the discussions will be as relevant in other shale gas regions, such as Poland, as they are the United States,” he added.

The reports should also be available prior to West Virginia’s 2014 legislative session to help guide regulatory discussions.



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