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Shale experts convene for second Ohio University Shale Policy and Technology Symposium

Anna Hartenbach | Apr 16, 2018
Shale

Shale experts convene for second Ohio University Shale Policy and Technology Symposium

Anna Hartenbach | Apr 16, 2018

Shale policy and technology experts, many from Ohio University’s Russ College of Engineering and Technology, assembled for the second annual Ohio Shale Policy and Technology Symposium April 4-5 at OHIO’s Dublin campus to discuss ongoing research related to shale development across the state and the Marcellus and Utica shale plays.

Hosted by the Russ College of Engineering and Technology, the Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs, and the College of Arts and Sciences, the event explored ways regional communities and businesses can benefit from shale development, using innovative policies, partnerships and technologies.

The Utica and Marcellus shale plays across much of the Appalachian Basin are some of the largest natural gas reserves in the world -- and because of their largely untapped natural gas reserves, they’re an attractive target for unconventional oil and gas development, said Scott Miller, Russ College associate dean for industry partnerships.

“The work that the industry is undertaking in Appalachia is going to set the groundwork for decades of business growth and economic development,” Miller said. “Naturally, OHIO, with the mission to increase regional prosperity through education and research, has a responsibility to lend our expertise to this important initiative.”

The two-day symposium featured research lab tours at OHIO’s Athens campus, where faculty, staff and students – including those who work at the Institute for Sustainable Energy and the Environment (ISEE) -- shared their research on innovative technologies that improve efficiencies in the production, delivery and monitoring of shale gas. A formal symposium, which highlighted policy and technology developments, was also held.

Experts from the oil and gas industry, geoscience technology, climate and energy, engineering, higher education, scientific, and economics and country risk consulting firms, presented. Keynote speakers included M. Beth Trombold, Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) commissioner; and Edward C. Chow, Energy and National Security Program senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and OHIO Glidden visiting professor.

David Bayless, Gerald Loehr Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Ohio Coal Research Center director, said researchers still have much more to understand.

“There are still a lot of questions on how to get better environmental, economic and energy outcomes from shale. We need better communications among stakeholders to get the better outcomes we desire,” he said.

According to Chow, who presented about U.S. shale gas and its relation to the international marketplace, 95 percent of recent U.S. oil and gas production increases come from only seven key basins, and this affects crude oil prices.

“The U.S. shale revolution is the culmination of 40 years of basic research and development in our national labs, research universities, and private sector, which was then enabled by technological advances in other areas such as information technology. It is impossible to underestimate the significance of the shale revolution and the need for continued research to sustain the progress, increase cost efficiency, and mitigate environmental concerns,” he said.

These basins are estimated to provide enough natural gas to satisfy the U.S energy demand for roughly 14 years, which means innovation will have an enormous impact on energy markets for years to come.

PUCO’s PowerForward initiative reviews technology and regulatory innovations to enhance consumers’ electricity experience and chart a path to grid modernization projects. While there is a distinction between the shale plays and PUCO’s role as an economic regulator of public utilities, the common focus is how innovation and technology can be used to better the lives of consumers, Trombold said.

“We are in a truly transformational time in the energy industry and the discovery of horizontal well drilling as a way to extract shale has had and will continue to have a significant impact on energy markets in the state and around the world,” she said. “Dubbed the largest fuel switch in history, we have already seen the development of new natural gas power plants in Ohio with two recently operational, three under construction, four approved for construction, and one pending approval by the Ohio Power Siting Board.”

Michael Spencer, a second year mechanical engineering Ph.D. candidate and ISEE researcher, presented in the technology track. He said the symposium reinforced his research findings while providing new perspectives.

“The event was informative and a great opportunity to see both the technical and policy perspectives sides of the industry – seeing both sides helps with the flow of ideas and leads to interesting discussions,” Spencer said. “It was also a great opportunity to network and present for members of the industry.”

The Shale Symposium built on the 2017 inaugural event in Athens, Ohio, where more than 80 attendees from across the region joined OHIO researchers to discuss the changing landscape of shale development.  

Colleen Carow contributed to this story.