Unconventional Resources - Field Laboratories
Marcellus Shale Energy and Environment Laboratory (MSEEL) Last Reviewed
May 2018


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, Northeast Natural Energy and The Ohio State University

West Virginia University and The Ohio State University 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. The MSEEL site is expected to undergo multiple drilling events (separated by periods sufficient to analyze data) over the course of the five-year project, providing the ideal testing conditions for researchers. 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 to be performed 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 to 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.
picture of Northeast Natural Energy Morgantown Industrial Park site
Northeast Natural Energy Morgantown Industrial Park site during the stimulation of the MIP 5 production well.

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.


  • Developed a new frequency attribute calculated from the distributed acoustic sensor (DAS) data that reveals cross-stage fluid communication during hydraulic fracturing.
  • 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 Ra in surface facilities.
  • Developed two different neural-network and support vector regression models to identify key parameters predicting potential screen-out events and ultimate well performance.
  • Developed a new process to analyze long-term fiber-optic distributed temperature sensor (DTS) data to better understand differences in production efficiency and relation to completion efficiency as displayed by microseismic and DAS data.
  • 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. Theresults 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 flow back 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 (See Current Status) 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 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 on July 15, 2015.
    • 3H whole and 1.5-inch sidewall cores were taken and vertical well was logged, completed August 26, 2015.
    • 5H curve and lateral completed on September 18, 2015, to a total measured length of 14,554 feet.
    • 3H curve and lateral completed October 3, 2015, to a total measured lengh of 14,554 feet. The 3H lateral was fully logged and fiber-optic cable was run downhole with casing.
    • Science well spud September 12, 2015, and completed September 28, 2015. 1-inch sidewall cores were taken and the well was logged.
    • Completion and stimulation on the MIP5H with 30 stages was completed on November 6, 2015.
    • Completion and stimulation on the MIP3H with 28 engineered stages of variable cluster design was completed on 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 as operations are underway.
  • The MSEEL web application and data portal has been developed and is online at http://mseel.org.

    Current Status (May 2018)
    The project continues to integrate diverse reservoir data to improve our understanding of the completion and production behavior of the Marcellus. Modeling will be continued to investigate additional stimulation stages at well MIP-5H through the use of available information on the hydraulic fracturing field parameters (fluid volumes, pumping rate, proppant schedule, and geophysical data). The analysis of microseismic data will be continued, and a comparison of hydraulic fracture geometries will be made with available microseismic data.

    Project Start: October 1, 2014
    Project End: September 30, 2019

    DOE Contribution: $10,454,942
    Performer Contribution: $4,829,522

    Contact Information:
    NETL – Robert Vagnetti (robert.vagnetti@netl.doe.gov or 304-285-1334)
    West Virginia University – Tim Carr (tim.carr@mail.wvu.edu or 304-293-9660)

    Additional Information:

    Quarterly Research Progress Report [PDF] October - December, 2017

    Quarterly Research Progress Report [PDF] July - September, 2017

    Quarterly Research Progress Report [PDF] April - June, 2017

    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)

    Quarterly Research Progress Report [PDF] January - March, 2017

    Quarterly Research Progress Report [PDF] October - December, 2016

    Quarterly Research Progress Report [PDF] July - September, 2016

    Quarterly Research Progress Report [PDF] April - June, 2016

    Quarterly Research Progress Report [PDF] January - March, 2016

    Quarterly Research Progress Report [PDF] October - December, 2015

    Quarterly Research Progress Report [PDF] July - September, 2015

    Quarterly Research Progress Report [PDF] April - June, 2015

    Quarterly Research Progress Report [PDF] January - March, 2015

    Quarterly Research Progress Report [PDF] October - December, 2014