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West Virginia University to Study Drilling Impacts at Experimental Shale Site

The West Virginia University School of Public Health will join a federal project announced in November to conduct air, noise, occupational safety and health monitoring over the next five years at an experimental shale gas drilling site in Morgantown.

The Marcellus Shale Energy and Environment Laboratory was established with an $11 million grant from the U.S Department of Energy in November to develop and validate new knowledge and technology to improve recovery efficiency and to minimize the environmental impacts of unconventional resource development (see Shale DailyNov. 7, 2014).

WVU's School of Public Health plans to send its interim chair Michael McCawley to the site to monitor drilling's impacts on the environment over a five-year period. Researchers from New York University, Rutgers University, Columbia University, the U.S. Geological Survey and the University of Pennsylvania are joining in those tests to review real-time data from air and noise emissions monitoring and explore new control technologies.

McCawley said he has advised the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection and the state legislature in the past about how real-time monitoring data should be used instead of mandatory well setbacks to help limit the impacts of well operations on nearby communities.

"This project will allow this idea to be tested," he said. "We will be monitoring air and noise emissions in real time with the data to be provided to the well operator and the community as it becomes available. This enables real-time control operations."

The well site is operated by West Virginia-based Northeast Natural Energy at the Morgantown industrial park, one of three field sites across the country that are part of the DOE project.

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