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Field Laboratory for Emerging Stacked Unconventional Plays (ESUP)
Project Number
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The goal of the Field Laboratory for ESUP is to investigate and characterize the resource potential for multi-play production of emerging unconventional reservoirs in Central Appalachia.


Virginia Tech (VT); EnerVest Operating, LLC; Pashin Geoscience, LLC; and Gerald R. Hill, PhD, Inc.



The Central Appalachian region is host to an abundance of hydrocarbon resources

including coalbed methane, shale, and other unconventional reservoirs. Many of these plays are vertically stacked such that a single well or group of wells in close proximity can produce simultaneously from multiple reservoirs. Many of these reservoirs produce less than 50,000 barrels of oil equivalent (BOE) per day and can thus be classified as ESUPs. The project is designed to improve characterization of the multiple emerging unconventional pay zones that exist in the established Nora Gas Field through the drilling and coring of a vertical stratigraphic test well up to 15,000 feet deep. Additionally, the ESUP Field Laboratory Team will explore and quantify the benefit of novel non-aqueous well completion strategies in this region. The project team will monitor the drilling of at least one multi-stage lateral well in the emerging (and technologically accessible) Lower Huron Shale for completion using non-aqueous fracturing techniques such as CO2 and advanced proppant technologies. Laboratory analysis, reservoir simulation, and monitoring observations will be integrated. An assessment will be made of the multi-play resource potential and a recommended strategy will be advanced for prudent development that considers regional environmental and socioeconomic impacts.


The benefits associated with prudently developing these ESUPs include reduced surface footprint, infrastructure requirements, and development costs. While advances in technology continue to increase the nation’s portfolio of economically recoverable hydrocarbons, uncertainty and technical challenges deter the level of investment required to develop Central Appalachia’s ESUPs. While it is imperative to meet the need for economic development, the region also contains “some of the world’s best remaining examples of diverse, intact, and connected temperate forests and freshwater streams” that reach tens of millions of people every day (Nature Conservancy, 2014). Although resource development and environmental conservation are often conflicting priorities, the results of this research effort will combine best practices, state of the art technology, and effective outreach to address the concerns of all stakeholders.

Nora Gas Field, Virginia (US Energy Information Administration, 2007)
Nora Gas Field, Virginia (US Energy Information Administration, 2007)


Accomplishments (most recent listed first)
Current Status

(May 2019)

Project is currently awaiting a DOE decision on the revised AFE for the 15,000-foot characterization well.

Project Start
Project End
DOE Contribution


Performer Contribution


Contact Information

NETL – Robert Vagnetti ( or 304-285-1334)
VT – Nino Ripepi ( or 540-231-5458)

Additional Information