WHEELING - Mountaineer researchers from West Virginia University are joining Buckeye students from Ohio State University to determine how both states can receive maximum benefit from shale exploration.
With billions of dollars worth of economic growth at stake for both states over the next several years, the universities are teaming up to study how to maximize the value of the Marcellus and Utica shale formations underlying West Virginia and Ohio. They have signed a memorandum of understanding creating a shale energy partnership between the two schools.
"This singular partnership demonstrates the wisdom of universities collaborating with one another," said Ohio State President E. Gordon Gee. "West Virginia University and Ohio State have complementary research strengths in this area. Working together, our faculty will take a unique leadership role that will advance our shared, scientific understanding of the complex environmental and economic issues in shale energy."
Photo by Jennifer Compston-Strough
As more natural gas drilling activity takes place in Belmont County, pipeliners are installing infrastructure in the Flushing area.
The MOU acknowledges that research and education related to shale energy development must be of high value to students, faculty and the public. The two schools will exchange information while jointly exploring funding of shale energy and related environmental studies before, during and after the development of the Utica and Marcellus shale plays. This could include the development of field laboratories.
"I am very excited about this partnership between two land-grant, flagship, research universities on an issue that is of great importance," WVU President Jim Clements said. "By working together we will enhance our capacity to do cutting-edge research, high-quality teaching and effective outreach on shale energy. This partnership will also enhance our ability to serve the energy needs of our states, nation and world."
WVU and OSU will address the complex issues related to shale development, including the economic implications of natural gas and other hydrocarbons, as well as the possible impacts of such development efforts on the environment, local communities and public health.
In Ohio, gas and oil producers like XTO Energy, Gulfport Energy, Hess Corp. and Antero Resources continue fracking wells, while processing companies like MarkWest Energy, Caiman Energy and M3 Midstream build plants across the countryside.
In West Virginia, drillers such as Chesapeake Energy, Chevron, Stone Energy, Gastar Exploration, EQT Corp. and others continue developing assets in West Virginia, while processing companies including MarkWest, Williams Partners and Dominion Resources construct increasingly more infrastructure across the northern portion of the state.
In Ohio, during a single week last year, one Marcellus and Utica Shale leasing company paid about $60 million in signing bonuses to Belmont County mineral owners.
As an example for how the industry is impacting West Virginia, Marshall County property values increased by $577.2 million for the 2013 tax year, largely because of oil and gas drilling. This means the county and its board of education will collect more tax dollars this year.
The Gulfport Stuntzman well south of Barnesville is one of the reasons drillers are so active in Belmont County. Based on initial production numbers and the going rates for oil and natural gas, WVU Marshall Miller Professor of Energy Tim Carr said this well could be producing as much as $100,000 worth of revenue per day.
Much of the high value for the gas underlying parts of Belmont County can be attributed to the fact that it is wet gas containing ethane, propane, butane, pentane and oil in addition to the dry methane gas. This valuable wet gas is also found in northern West Virginia, particularly in Marshall and Ohio counties.