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WVU helps countries better understand responsible development, management and impact of unconventional gas resources

Written by WVU News on . Posted in Media, News

Recognizing the depth and breadth of its knowledge about unconventional natural gas resources, the United States Department of State has called on West Virginia University to share that expertise with the world.

With increasing interest in natural gas development both in the U.S. and worldwide, the State Department’s Bureau of Energy Resources has reached a cooperative agreement with WVU to create the International Forum on Unconventional Gas Sustainability and the Environment, or INFUSE, a unique technical program dedicated to increasing other countries’ understanding of best practices for unconventional gas resource development through a mix of classroom and in the field activities.

Housed within the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences, and in collaboration with the WVU Energy Institute, INFUSE uses scientific, technical, policy and environmental lessons that the University has learned through its decades of research to inform international delegations on how proper development and management can reduce environmental risks and lead to sustainable resource development.

“The INFUSE program demonstrates WVU’s leadership and expertise on this critical, global energy topic,” says Brian Anderson, director of the WVU Energy Institute. “We have seen the widespread development of unconventional oil and gas production completely change the energy landscape of the United States and seen the best industry practices evolve over the past decade.

“WVU researchers have continually been on the forefront of developing these technologies and policy innovations; thus, we are uniquely positioned to educate others in the issues and best practices in unconventional hydrocarbon development,” Anderson said.

The program draws upon additional WVU expertise from the Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources, the Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design, the College of Law, School of Public Health, Regional Research Institute and the West Virginia Water Research Institute. Topics include policies, data, environment, safety, health, water usage, emissions, outreach and engagement with communities, workforce development, risks and rewards, policies and more. To date, four countries have participated (Mexico, Colombia, Morocco, Lithuania). Additional countries will be visiting WVU beginning this fall.

WVU researchers from multiple areas of study have been examining all aspects of shale gas development since production began a decade ago. The most recent interdisciplinary project was the formation of the nation’s first integrated research initiative on shale gas drilling, completion and production.

The Marcellus Shale Energy and Environmental Laboratory, known as MSEEL, is a partnership with The Ohio State University, Northeast Natural Energy and the National Energy Technology Laboratory of the U.S. Department of Energy.

Scientists, engineers, ecologists, public health professionals, social scientists and more from eight units across the University, in addition to partnering organizations, are collecting data in real time from a science well and two production wells, as well as the surrounding site, to gain a comprehensive understanding of the entire life cycle – from drilling to completion to production.

Tim Carr, professor in the department of geology and geography and principal investigator of MSEEL, is an enthusiastic proponent of INFUSE. “MSEEL and other WVU research efforts on unconventional resources in the Appalachian basin and around the world provides a solid foundation for the short courses, site visits, and briefings that comprise our global outreach efforts.”

-WVU-

ms/07/28/16

CONTACT: Brian Anderson, WVU Energy Institute
304.293.6631, Brian.Anderson@mail.wvu.edu
or
Tim Carr, Department of Geology and Geography
304.293.9660, tim.carr@mail.wvu.edu

WVWRI Welcomes New Environmental Technician

Written by Andrew Stacy on . Posted in Blog, News

DSCN6686MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – The West Virginia Water Research Institute (WVWRI) is pleased to announce that Aaron Beam has joined its team as its new Environmental Technician. The WVWRI is a program of the National Research Center for Coal and Energy at West Virginia University. Beam, a West Virginia native, earned his undergraduate degrees in Mining Engineering and Geology from West Virginia University.

“I am looking forward to spending time in the field and working with a team of talented and friendly individuals,” said Beam. “It also excites me to be working with a program that is helping with improving water quality in the state.”

In his new role, Beam will be conducting field sampling on a variety of WVWRI projects and assisting in the preparation of associated data, reports, and presentations.

While pursuing his undergraduate degrees, he gained a variety of job experience ranging from mountain bike guide to working in an underground coal mine.

Aaron grew up in central West Virginia in the town of Summersville. There, he learned to love bluegrass music, ramps, and morel mushrooms while developing the hobbies of trail running and trout fishing.

Beam is excited to get to work doing something that is important to him and that he enjoys.

“We are very lucky to have Aaron join our team,” said Melissa O’Neal, program manager for the WVWRI. “His education and can do attitude will be of great value to our staff and will provide us with more opportunity for collaboration with state and private entities.”

Research at WVU Concludes Waste From Test Fracking Wells Safe to be on Highways

Written by Andrew Stacy on . Posted in Blog, News, Press Release

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Researchers at West Virginia University studied drilling wastes produced at two research wells near Morgantown and found they are well below federal guidelines for radioactive or hazardous waste.

Paul Ziemkiewicz, director of the West Virginia Water Research Institute at WVU, will present these and other findings from the Marcellus Shale Energy and Environmental Laboratory, or MSEEL, today at the Appalachian Basin Technology Workshop in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania.

Dr. Ziemkiewicz and his research team are studying the solid and liquid drilling wastes that are generated during shale gas development. These include drill cuttings, muds and produced water.

Drilling a horizontal well in the Marcellus Shale produces about 500 tons of rock fragments, known as cuttings. WVU researchers have been studying the radioactivity and toxicity of the drill cuttings, which are trucked on public roads to county landfills.

MSEEL scientists found that using the “green” drilling mud BioBase 365 at the well site resulted in all 12 cuttings samples passing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s test for leaching toxicity, allowing them to be classified as non-hazardous for non-radiological parameters like benzene and arsenic.

They determined that the drilling mud exerted a strong influence over the environmental risks associated with handling and disposing of drill cuttings.

Ziemkiewicz discussed the findings in the context of the West Virginia, Pennsylvania and federal standards for transportation and landfilling. For example, the U.S. Department of Transportation classifies solid wastes exceeding 2,000 pico curies per gram (pCi/g) as low level radioactive waste requiring special permitting and handling.

“Radium is the dominant radioactive element in drilling wastes. In our study, the highest radium readings were below 10.8 pCi/g in the horizontal legs of the two production wells at the MSEEL site. Most were below 5 pCi/g,” says Ziemkiewicz. “The highest radium level in produced water found so far was 17 pCi/g. All of these are well below the U.S. Department of Transportation standard.”

Placing these materials in landfills, however, requires compliance with state landfilling regulations, which are based on exposure levels.

Ziemkiewicz’s team has also sampled the waste streams at the two production wells to identify changes in organic, inorganic and radiochemical composition over time. Among these findings, Ziemkiewicz noted that almost all contaminants increase through the production phase of an unconventional gas well while the volume of water drops rapidly. Toxic concentrations far exceed permissible levels for drinking water or discharge to streams. Most of this water is used for subsequent hydraulic fracturing operations. The remainder is disposed of under the states’ underground injection well programs.

When the production wells were completed in early December 2015, about 50 gallons of produced water came out of the wells each minute. Within a week that dropped to four gallons per minute, and it is currently one third of a gallon per minute or 460 gallons per day.

The MSEEL project is led by West Virginia University and the Ohio State University in partnership with Northeast Natural Energy, Schlumberger and the National Energy Technology Laboratory of the United States Department of Energy. It is the first-ever long-term, comprehensive field study of shale gas resources in which scientists will study the process from beginning-to-end.

The project site consists of an intensively instrumented science well and two shale gas production wells where researchers from WVU, Ohio State, the U.S. Geological Survey, USDOE and several other universities are studying what happens during and after hydraulic fracturing. The five-year MSEEL project includes engineers, ecologists, public health professionals, social scientists and more. The comprehensive studies include monitoring of baseline air, noise, light and water, as well as collecting of geological, environmental and other data.

“This has not been done in a publicly funded study before,” said Ziemkiewicz.

-WVU-

CONTACT: Paul Ziemkiewicz; West Virginia Water Research Institute
304.293.6958; Paul.Ziemkiewicz@mail.wvu.edu

NBAC Accepting Applications for BAD Buildings Program Associate

Written by Andrew Stacy on . Posted in Employment, News

The West Virginia University Research Corporation (WVURC) seeks to hire a Program Associate in the Northern West Virginia Brownfields Assistance Center at West Virginia University. This position performs various support duties related to the BAD Buildings Program, including helping communities establish sustainable community development initiatives that will enhance the well-being and quality of life for the people of WV, attracting investment to communities and maximizing resources in the state. This position facilitates the implementation of community development strategies on brownfields and abandoned and dilapidated properties, including coordinating stakeholder groups, project identification, project prioritization, site redevelopment plans, and pursuit of public and private sector funding opportunities.

Bachelor’s degree in public policy, public administration, political science, business/finance, environmental studies, or related disciplines; and 6 months – 2 years of project management experience;
or an equivalent combination of education and experience. Experience in brownfield redevelopment, community development, and/or issues related to abandoned and dilapidated structures is preferred.

Competitive salary and benefits package offered. For a complete job description and to apply for this position, please view the job announcement.

AA/EOE/Minorities/Females/Vet/Disability/E-verify compliant employer