The University of Cincinnati and Oregon State University are partnering on a new air quality study to better understand the environmental impacts of unconventional oil and gas operations in Carroll County, Ohio, which has seen the most drilling activity in the state.

According to state records, 1,030 horizontal wells have been permitted and 658 have been drilled. A majority of those are in Carroll County in the Southeast part of the state where exploration and production companies are focusing on a sweet spot that lies underneath about seven counties (see Shale Daily,Nov. 19, 2013).

"It made sense for UC and OSU to target Carroll County because of the volume of drilling activity in a small geographic area," said Paul Feezel, chairman of the group Carroll Concerned Citizens, which is helping organize the study with landowners and others on the ground. "The researchers can get the different sampling situations they are looking for without the logistical challenges and travel."

Researchers will place passive air sampling devices near well pads to capture chemical readings for many of the air pollutants that have reportedly been linked to unconventional drilling. The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences -- a part of the the federal government's National Institutes of Health -- will fund the study.

The study is just the latest to be announced in the Appalachian Basin, where the oil and gas drilling renaissance of recent years has increased scrutiny on operations. Development in Ohio has surpassed expectations from just a year ago, with the state exceeding 1,000 horizontal drilling permits in late November and coming in above state projections for 2013 (see Shale Daily, Dec. 6, 2013).

"As Ohio's shale gas boom continues, thousands of new pads will be installed, many of which will be in close proximity to homes and businesses," said Professor Erin Haynes of UC's Department of Environmental Health. "Understanding if significant air quality changes occur during the various shale gas operations is important to understanding health risks for humans and livestock."

The new study also follows another released earlier this month, in which researchers from the Carnegie Institution for Science and Harvard University found that methane emissions in some areas of heavy drilling across the country exceeded previous government estimates (seeShale Daily, Nov. 27, 2013).

Meanwhile, the University of Colorado and the National Atmospheric and Oceanic Administration announced a plan to continue studying greenhouse gas emissions in the Marcellus, Fayetteville and Haynesville shales next year, as researchers in West Virginia continue with a similar study to the one that will begin in Ohio (see Shale Daily, Dec. 13, 2013).

The UC and OSU team in Ohio is currently seeking out landowners interested in hosting the air sampling devices on their property, with a public meeting scheduled in Carroll County next month for the public to learn more about its efforts.