The Marcellus Shale Engineering and Environmental Laboratory (MSEEL) plans to conduct more extensive testing to improve unconventional natural gas recovery at a new drilling site in Monongalia County, WV, to the west of its first site where research began three years ago.

MSEEL is a partnership between the U.S. Dept. of Energy (DOE), West Virginia University, Ohio State University and Northeast Natural Energy. It is considered a cornerstone of the National Energy Technology Laboratory’s unconventional oil and gas program. DOE said the new research will primarily be aimed at improving gas recovery from horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing throughout the Appalachian Basin.

Physical Scientist Robert Vagnetti, of the NETL, said the new wells, which will be drilled near Blacksville, WV, to the west of MSEEL’s first site at an industrial park in Morgantown, WV, will advance hydraulic fracture stimulation techniques that were pioneered by the partnership years ago.

WVU and Northeast Natural were able to design stimulation zones or stages that optimized perforations around natural fractures in the shale at the Morgantown site. Some of the techniques, however, were deemed cost-prohibitive and researchers plan to use and compare new ones at the Blacksville site.

“If successful, this project will yield a tool set and analytical techniques that can be used on individual wells or pads to improve future resource recovery efficiency throughout the region.”

Northeast Natural drilled an observation well and production wells at the Morgantown site to enhance resource recovery and gauge any environmental impacts from unconventional development.

“Monitoring of produced fluids and natural gas will continue at the Blacksville site in order to confirm earlier findings of no adverse environmental impacts resulting from gas development operations, and the potential for fluid recycling or beneficial reuse,” Vagnetti said.

Privately-owned Northeast Natural has about 49,000 net acres in the Marcellus Shale fairway of West Virginia and western Pennsylvania. MSEEL is funded by the DOE.