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Marcellus Shale Engineering and Environmental Laboratory (MSEEL) at the Morgantown Industrial Park.
Marcellus Shale Research Set to Begin Initial Drilling at West Virginia Site

Data gleaned from three years’ worth of research from the Marcellus Shale Engineering and Environmental Laboratory (MSEEL) — a research partnership funded by the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) that involves West Virginia University (WVU) and Northeast Natural Energy (NNE) — will guide more extensive testing at a second new well site with initial top hole drilling set to begin the week of December 23rd near Core, W.Va.

MSEEL is a cornerstone of NETL’s unconventional oil and gas program. The new research--west of the initial Morgantown Industrial Park site, in western Monongalia County, W.Va. --is geared toward improving gas recovery from horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing at sites throughout the region. The start of drilling is known as “spudding.”

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the Marcellus Shale play, extends in the subsurface from New York State in the north to northeastern Kentucky and Tennessee in the south and is the most prolific natural gas-producing formation in the Appalachian basin. The formation footprint covers about 95,000 square miles with a prospective area of about 72,000 square miles.

NETL’s Robert Vagnetti explained that the effort advances hydraulic fracture stimulation techniques that were pioneered by NETL researchers years ago. A key objective of the upcoming field test is to develop advanced completion capabilities that can be applied to other areas of the Marcellus Shale play to improve resource recovery efficiency.

Through core analysis and advanced well logging technologies, WVU and NNE were able to design stimulation zones or “stages” that optimized perforations around natural fractures in the shale at the Morgantown Industrial Park site. Monitoring using seismic and fiber optic distributed temperature and acoustic sensing (DAS/DTS) during stimulation and subsequent production logging confirm that these engineered stages outperformed conventional geometrically designed stages.

According to Vagnetti, “DAS/DTS is too costly to be used on all wells. Therefore, aided by advanced numerical modeling developed by WVU, the project team will compare the use and results of new completion/stimulation techniques at the Core site to the large array of relatively cost-prohibitive techniques used in the Morgantown Industrial Park wells.”

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.

The Morgantown Industrial Park wells operated by NNE were monitored before, during and after stimulation activities to investigate any potential environmental impacts associated with oil and natural gas operations. Lessons learned such as the use of green drilling fluids, which were shown to eliminate the need for drill cuttings to be disposed of as a hazardous waste, have become the standard for NNE drilling operations and will be employed at the Core site.

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