The U.S. Deptartment of Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) has selected Pennsylvania State University to lead a six-year, $20 million project that will bring together eight other universities to research and advance the more efficient and clean use of fossil fuels, including shale oil and natural gas.

NETL selected Penn State in an open competition to lead and coordinate research efforts that it hopes will lead to the development and deployment of cleaner, low-carbon fossil fuel-based technologies that will enable more cost-effective and environmentally friendly use of the nation’s resources.

The coalition will explore research in coal, natural gas and oil, including carbon dioxide capture, storage and utilization. The research would also include unconventional shale oil and gas drilling, its environmental impacts, infrastructure and production improvements such as leak detection, smart sensors, deep water technology, methane hydrates and enhanced recovery, Penn State said in announcing its leadership role.

Outreach and technology transfer to the fossil fuel industry would also be a top priority for the coalition, with the aim of reducing environmental impacts and minimizing carbon dioxide emissions. The NETL said the coalition’s work would also support the Office of Fossil Energy’s Coal and Oil and Gas programs by focusing its efforts on a variety of areas that also include advanced energy systems and offshore oil and gas technology.

The coalition’s founding members include the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Princeton University; Texas A&M University; the University of Kentucky; the University of South California; the University of Tulsa; the University of Wyoming, and Virginia Polytechnic and State University. New universities can also provide additional research capabilities and can collaborate as needed throughout the six-year initiative, NETL said. Director of Penn State’s Energy Institute and professor of fuel science and chemical engineering Chunshan Song will serve as the project’s director.

The University Coalition for Fossil Energy Research, as the project is called, will involve researchers with expertise in geological and environmental systems; materials engineering and manufacturing; energy conversion engineering; systems engineering and analysis; and computational science and engineering.

The DOE is providing the $20 million for the project, with no matching funds from the participating universities.