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Utica Shale Energy and Environment Laboratory (USEEL)
Project Number
Last Reviewed Dated

The goal of this project is to develop and maintain a field research facility in the heart of the deep Utica Shale-Pt. Pleasant play that will provide a platform for geotechnical and environmental studies before, during, and after unconventional oil and gas (UOG) development. The collaborative field site will develop and validate new knowledge and technology for improving recovery efficiency and minimizing environmental implications of deep Utica development.


The Ohio State University (OSU), Columbus, OH
Energy Corporation of America (ECA), Charleston, WV
West Virginia University (WVU), Morgantown, WV
Texas A&M (TAMU), College Station, TX
Houston Advanced Research Center (HARC), Houston TX


Despite the rapid growth of the UOG industry in the Appalachian Basin of Pennsylvania and neighboring states, there are still fundamental concerns regarding the environmentally sound and cost efficient extraction of this unique asset. To address these concerns, OSU has created USEEL, a dedicated research program where scientists from the university will work with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL), academia, industry, and regulatory partners, to measure and monitor reservoir response to UOG development and any associated environmental concerns.


The USEEL will be located in Greene County, PA, in the heart of the deep Utica-Pt. Pleasant Shale play of the Appalachian Basin. Oil and gas production from the Appalachian Basin has been a major contributor to U.S. energy needs for almost 200 years. Recently, unparalleled UOG development of the natural gas-rich Paleozoic Marcellus and underlying Utica-Pt. Pleasant shale formations has significantly increased the Nation’s energy security. Commercial production from unconventional gas wells began in 2005 in the Marcellus Shale and in 2011 in the Utica Shale. Development of the Marcellus and Utica shales has continued in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia, with about 13,000 wells drilled between 2004 and March 2015. However, the deep Utica-Pt. Pleasant of western Pennsylvania is an emerging play and much is still unknown. 

The USEEL project team will characterize and quantify the gas-producing attributes of one of the deepest portions of the Utica-Pt. Pleasant formations in the Appalachian Basin via a multi-disciplinary collaboration that leverages state-of-the-art capabilities in geochemistry, core assessment, well design and logging, 3-D and micro-seismic, DTS and DAS fiber optics, and reservoir modelling. Fracture and rock strength analyses will be complemented by a comprehensive suite of geophysical and geochemical logs, water and chip samples, and cores (pressure sidewall and whole core) to evaluate fluids, mineral alteration, microbes, pore structure, and hydrocarbon formation and alteration in the shale pore space. Located on one of many existing Marcellus drill pads in southwestern Pennsylvania, USEEL will provide an unprecedented opportunity to evaluate the economic and environmental effects of Marcellus pad expansion on the integrity of near-by existing production wells, ground disruption and slope stability, and ultimate efforts to conduct site reclamation. Combined with the overall goal of an improved understanding of the Utica-Pt. Pleasant system, USEEL findings will decrease the number of drill pads and improve the efficacy of UOG development across the Appalachian Basin.

Accomplishments (most recent listed first)
  • A draft MOA was negotiated and signed between OSU and ECA on November 29, 2016, for a proposed study site located on the ECA Meadows well pad in Greene County, PA; the final sub award agreement was signed and submitted on February 21, 2017.
  • A Modified Work Plan and Revised Budget for USEEL was submitted on January 19, 2017.
  • Revisions to the original Statement of Project Objectives (SOPO) were submitted on February 10, 2017.
  • An approved NEPA Categorical Exclusion (CX) for the proposed site was received February 16, 2017.
  • Local to regional databases, including GIS Excel, raster, and shape files, were compiled and updated for ArcGIS compilation and presentation.
Current Status

The following activities are planned during the next six months:

Project Management Plan
The Project Management Plan (PMP) will be revised and submitted for review.

Permitting of Lateral
ECA will complete permitting procedures for the Utica-Pt. Pleasant lateral location.

3-Seismic Data
The 3-D seismic data will be acquired from ECA (cost share item) and analysis initiated.

Project Planning and Coordination
Project planning and coordination meetings with OSU, DOE-NETL, and project sub recipients (ECA, WVU, TAMU, and HARC) will be held in anticipation of November 2017 drilling of vertical borehole. A drilling and sampling plan will be prepared.

Site-Specific and Regional Baseline Studies
Focused baseline studies to support surface environmental and groundwater assessments will be initiated. These studies will be performed in coordination with, and to supplement required studies performed by ECA to meet Pennsylvania regulatory agency requirements.

Database Compilation
Local to regional GIS Excel, raster, and shape files for ArcGIS compilation and presentation; and subsurface geological and engineering data will be updated/collected.

USEEL Website and Data Portal Development
The existing USEEL website and data portal will be revised to support the Greene County, PA, USEEL project site location.

Project Start
Project End
DOE Contribution


Performer Contribution


Contact Information

NETL – Joseph Renk, Project Manager ( or 412-386-6406)
The Ohio State University – Dr. David Cole, Principal Investigator ( or 614-688-7407)

Additional Information

Utica Shale Energy and Environment Laboratory (Aug 2017)
Presented by David Cole, Ohio State University, 2017 Carbon Storage and Oil and Natural Gas Technologies Review Meeting, Pittsburgh, PA