Two colleges already playing a significant role in shaping the development of the Marcellus and Utica shales — Ohio State University (OSU) and West Virginia University (WVU) — have signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to create a joint program on shale energy research.

The schools said Monday that their new research program would look at issues related to shale development, including environmental impacts, public health and the economic effects from the expanding use of natural gas.

“This singular partnership demonstrates the wisdom of universities collaborating with one another,” said OSU President E. Gordon Gee. He said the universities “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.”

WVU President Jim Clements concurred. “I am very excited about this partnership between two land-grant, flagship, research universities on an issue that is of great importance,” he 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.”

According to the universities, officials from both schools met on the sidelines of an energy conference that was held at OSU in April 2012. Later discussions formed the basis of the MOU between the schools.

For several years, OSU has played an important role in Marcellus and Utica shale research. One important milestone was when the university founded the Subsurface Energy Resource Center in September 2011 (see Shale Daily, Sept. 27, 2011).

Although a fraction of industry projections (see Shale Daily, Sept. 23, 2011), an OSU economics professor reported in December 2011 that shale development would still create about 20,000 jobs over a four-year period (see Shale Daily, Dec. 20, 2011). But three months later, economics and geology experts from OSU, Cleveland State University and Marietta College asserted that shale development would create 65,000 jobs and bring Ohio nearly $5 billion in revenue (see Shale Daily, Feb. 29, 2012).

An OSU geology professor opined that wastewater from a disposal well could cause earthquakes if the water were injected into a geologic fault, as was reportedly the case with a disposal well in Youngstown in 2011 and early 2012 (see Shale Daily, Jan. 5, 2012). This was followed by two OSU grad students issuing a policy brief in June 2012 that warned state legislators to take care in levying severance taxes on oil and natural gas (see Shale Daily, June 11, 2012).

Meanwhile, researchers at WVU’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research reported in January 2011 that Marcellus Shale development would create 20,000 jobs in the state by 2015 (see Shale Daily, Jan. 26, 2011). Seven months later, WVU’s Center for Industrial Research Applications said the Marcellus would add more than 250,000 jobs to the Pittsburgh region by 2020 (see Shale Daily, Aug. 18, 2011).

Testing began in 2012 on a remote gas well monitoring system developed by a research associate professor at WVU, through a partnership funded by the federal Department of Energy (see Shale Daily, Feb. 14, 2012).

Most recently, WVU researchers have been contracted to perform work for the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), specifically on reports for well location restrictions and pits and impoundments (see Shale Daily, Feb. 1).