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Marcellus Shale Energy and Environment Laboratory (MSEEL)
Project Number
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The goal of the Marcellus Shale Energy and Environment Laboratory (MSEEL) is to provide a long-term field site to develop and validate new knowledge and technology to improve recovery efficiency and minimize environmental implications of unconventional resource development.


West Virginia University (WVU), Morgantown, WV
Northeast Natural Energy (NNE), Morgantown, WV
The Ohio State University (NNE), Morgantown, WV


WVU and OSU have formed a consortium of university researchers to develop a research program focused on a dedicated field site and laboratory at the Northeast Natural Energy (NNE) production site in the center of the Marcellus Shale unconventional production region of north-central West Virginia.

The MSEEL project will provide a long-term field site at NNE’s Morgantown Industrial Park (MIP) just outside of Morgantown, West Virginia. The site provides a well-documented baseline of production and environmental characterization from two previous wells. A dedicated scientific observation well will be used to collect detailed subsurface data and to monitor and test technologies in additional production wells that may be drilled at the site. In August 2018, a second MSEEL site was approved and in December 2018, six wells at the Boggess site near Core, WV, were spud and conductor casing was installed. MSEEL will use the latest information technology to enable a broad, integrated program of open, collaborative science and technology development and testing. The initial project plan provides for the collection of samples and data and/or the testing and demonstration of advanced technologies, but the phased approach is flexible enough to incorporate new technology and science.

Research anticipated at the MSEEL site includes:

  • Development of integrated data acquisition and modeling approaches for reservoir-scale simulations based on geophysical data, image logs, and lithology.
  • Scrutinizing petrophysical, reservoir, and production data to establish the effectiveness of geologic versus geometric-based fracture stage design. Evaluating innovative stage spacing and cluster density practices to optimize recovery efficiency.
  • Data driven integration of geophysical, fluid flow, and mechanical properties logs and microseismic and core data to better characterize subsurface rock properties, faults, and fracture systems to better understand the extent of the stimulated reservoir volume in unconventional reservoirs.
  • Matching reservoir lithology and fracture-fluid types to understand the long-term interaction of fluids and gases with reservoir rock.
  • Integrated geochemical and microbiological studies to advance the state of knowledge on in situ reservoir conditions and the effects of fluid/rock interactions over time.  
Northeast Natural Energy Morgantown Industrial Park site during the stimulation of the MIP 5 production well.
Northeast Natural Energy Boggess Site: Triple-Combo rig in preparation of drilling laterals.



The MSEEL site will provide a well-documented baseline of reservoir and environmental characterization. Access to multiple Marcellus wells separated by time-periods sufficient to analyze data will allow for both the collection of samples and data and the testing and demonstration of advanced technologies. The project’s phased approach has the flexibility to identify and incorporate new, cost-effective technology and science focused on increasing recovery efficiency and reducing environmental and societal impacts.

Accomplishments (most recent listed first)
  • Improved understanding of the locations for high-intensity natural fractures is critical for efficient development of Marcellus shale gas assets by placing perforation clusters at optimized locations to improve the efficiency of hydraulic fracture completion. WVU has developed a 3D visualization model using the open source programming language to visualize fracture data and microseismic events in the Boggess wells.
  • WVU has initiated a detailed analysis of the cored and logged vertical pilot well to develop a high-resolution geomechanical model (stratigraphy) to type each 6 inches of the Marcellus. Data from logging while drilling (LWD) in each of the six laterals at the Boggess site is being compared to fiber optic (FO) data and similar conventional geomechanical logging tools to evaluate the cost-effectiveness of LWD technologies to the relatively high-cost permanent FO data.
  • Based on rate transit analysis (RTA), the fracture analysis (Fracpro) and production monitoring of the six wells at the Boggess Pad, it appears that the wells engineered using software developed by the MSEEL team may be some of the better wells on the pad. Two wells were geometrically completed, a private consultant engineered two wells, and two wells were engineered using software developed by the MSEEL team (1H and 3H).  
  • Interpreted borehole fracture intensities and Shmin (minimum horizontal stress) values were integrated with a data management Python platform for both programmable plots and grading clusters. Areas of consistent Shmin and low fracture intensity were rated to be the optimal geomechanical candidates for cluster locations and stage lengths in the 3H Boggess well. Though preliminary, early production data suggests that wells completed using this engineering approach may be out-performing those Boggess wells using conventional geometric completions.
  • Fiber optics and surface seismic were used to monitor stimulations of the six Boggess wells which were completed in mid-October, 2019. 
  • Drilled and cemented the six Boggess well to total depth and installed permanent distributed acoustic and temperature (DAS/DTS) fiber optic cable into the 5H well.
  • Retrieved 139 feet of 4-inch whole round core and 50 sidewall cores from the Boggess 17H pilot well. The core has been delivered to NETL for CT imaging and core logging. The core and logged vertical pilot well will be used to develop a high-resolution geomechanical model the Marcellus.
  • Open and closed pyrolysis experiments provided evidence that Marcellus shale has the potential to generate “late gas,” composed mainly of methane, at higher maturity with vitrinite reflectance (VRo) >3 and that the artificial maturation data can be compared with the pyrolysis data from natural shale maturity series to decipher the fluctuations in sources of organic matter and paleo-redox.
  • Completed nine emission audits at the MIP site utilizing both stationary and mobile systems. Audits show that the main contributor to methane emissions on site is the produced water tank which are vented to the atmosphere. 
  • WVU has developed a software system “FIBPRO” to analyze fiber-optic DAS/DTS and microseismic data collected during hydraulic fracture stimulation of the MIP 3H well. Analyses using FIBPRO show the distribution of deformation and cross-flow between stages demonstrates the differences in completion efficiency among stages and clusters. These differences affect production efficiency and have resulted in a better understanding of the geologic/geomechanical controls on completion and ultimately on production of the well. WVU has developed an integrated geomechanical and discrete natural fracture (DFN) model to investigate the complexity of hydraulic fracture geometry. Reservoir simulation and history matching the well production data confirmed the subsurface production response to the hydraulic fractures. Well spacing sensitivity research was done to reveal the optimum distance that the wells need to be spaced to maximize recovery and the number of wells per section.
  • New microorganisms have been recognized in the deep biosphere represented by the Marcellus Shale. Understanding these organisms could reduce downhole well damage and precipitation of radium (Ra) in surface facilities.
  • A special session highlighting the results and lessons learned from the MSEEL project was held at the URTec conference in Austin, Texas, July 24-26, 2017. This included seven oral presentations and four e-presentations, as well as multiple posters at the poster session. 
  • On March 13, 2017, after several days of weather delays, WVU and partner NNE completed the production log testing of the MIP 3H well. This production “spinner test” measured fluid velocity through the wellbore. The results of the production logging indicated that the clusters stimulated with 100 mesh (finer) proppant display more consistent and higher volume production. NNE has incorporated 100 mesh into future stimulation designs.
  • In order to better analyze the biogeochemical characteristics of the Marcellus shale and to investigate geological controls on microbial distribution, diversity, and function, OSU researchers have developed a method to maximize recovery and reproducibility of lipid biomarkers. Utilizing metagenomics, OSU has been able to show that the Marcellus shale has a distinct taxonomic signature.
  • In coupled research to investigate fluid-rock-microbial interactions, WVU researchers have observed an initial enrichment trend in δ13CDIC of flowback fluids during the first few hours to one to two days, indicating dissolution of carbonates in reservoir after injection of hydraulic fracturing fluids. The subsequent, slower δ13CDIC enrichment trend over time might be indicative of microbial reactions induced in the reservoir after introduction of hydraulic fracturing fluids (containing nutrient and carbon sources). These results will be tied to the genomic analysis conducted OSU.
  • Continuous monitoring of flowback and produced waters for nearly a year show that Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) have leveled off and that there has been little change in ionic composition. Radionuclides in the drill cuttings have been consistently below WV Department of Protection levels for landfill disposal and well below US Department of Transportation levels for classification as a low-level radioactive waste. Findings from the analysis of MSEEL drill cuttings aided WV legislators in establishing new state-wide waste disposal criteria. These criteria are based on the EPA’s toxicity characteristic leaching procedure (TCLP). There have been no TLCP exceedances for either organic or inorganic constituents in the MSEEL drill cuttings.
  • Direct-reading aerosol sampling was conducted throughout all stages of well development except pad preparation. Sampling locations included the drill pad itself, as well as locations at 1 and 2 km distances. Background samples were also taken as reference. EPA-regulated PM2.5 (particles less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter, capable of reaching the lung airspaces in a human) emissions were not detectable from background at 1 km downwind during highest emissions periods (hydraulic fracturing) on the well pad. 
  • WVU researchers have identified aliphatic (n-alkanes) as possible biomarkers for Marcellus shale. The Lower Marcellus has the highest concentration of shorter chain n-alkanes. This represents a low TAR (terrigenous/aquatic ratio) which may help aid in our understanding of the organic matter source, depositional redox environment, and the thermal maturity of shales.
  • Numerical modeling was conducted to simulate stimulation stages 1 through 3 of the 3H well using measured injection data. Comparison of the slurry volumes, slurry rates, and proppant mass estimated by the model and of measured data show generally good correlation. This modeling will continue for other stages as well as to incorporate microseismic and production spinner test data in order to better model fracture geometries.
  • NNE began drilling two production wells (MIP 3H and 5H) in late June 2015. The 3H well was used to obtain 111 feet of 4-inch whole core through the entire Marcellus Formation as well as more than 50 1.5-inch sidewall cores which will be used by researchers to conduct geochemical, microbiological, and geomechanical investigations. This same well was instrumented with fiber optic cable for distributed acoustic and temperature measurements throughout the full lateral length. The dedicated vertical science well, situated between the two horizontal production wells, was drilled and logged, and 147 additional 1-inch sidewall cores were obtained. The science well was instrumented with borehole microseismic and was used to gather valuable information to assist with optimizing lateral well placement and hydraulic fracture design during well stimulation. Key operational activities completed in 2015 included:
    • 5H top hole spud on June 28, 2015, drilled on air to 6500 feet. Completed July 6, 2015.
    • 3H top hole spud on July 6, 2015, drilled on air to 6923 feet. Completed July 15, 2015.
    • 3H whole and 1.5-inch sidewall cores were taken, and the vertical well was logged. Completed August 26, 2015.
    • 5H curve and lateral to a total measured length of 14,554 feet. Completed September 18, 2015.
    • 3H curve and lateral to a total measured length of 14,554 feet. Completed October 3, 2015. The 3H lateral was fully logged, and fiber-optic cable was run downhole with casing.
    • Science well spud September 12, 2015. Completed September 28, 2015. 1-inch sidewall cores were taken, and the well was logged.
    • Completion and stimulation on the MIP 5H with 30 stages. Completed November 6, 2015.
    • Completion and stimulation on the MIP 3H with 28 engineered stages of variable cluster design. Completed November 15, 2015.
    • Production started on December 10, 2015, and is being monitored with fiber-optic cable.
  • Core Analysis
    • 111 feet of whole round 4-inch vertical core from the 3H well — through the entirety of the Marcellus.
    • Sidewall cores — 50 from 3H.
    • Sidewall cores — 147 from SW.
    • Terratek logged and split (2/3–1/3) vertical core; 30 core plugs extracted (~ every 3 feet).
    • NETL Core lithological description and imaging (multi-sensor core logger and medical computed tomography scanner).
  • Baseline noise, air, and surface water data has been collected, and monitoring activities continue.
  • The MSEEL web application and data portal has been developed and is online at
Current Status

The Final Project Report is available on

Project Start
Project End
DOE Contribution


Performer Contribution


Contact Information

NETL – Robert Vagnetti ( or 304-285-1334)
West Virginia University – Tim Carr ( or 304-293-9660)

Additional Information

Final Report (Dec 2021)

Marcellus Shale Energy and Environment Laboratory (Aug 2017)
Presented by Timothy Carr, West Virginia University, 2017 Carbon Storage and Oil and Natural Gas Technologies Review Meeting, Pittsburgh, PA

Fact Sheet: Marcellus Shale Energy & Environment Laboratory (MSEEL)