With the shale oil industry growing at a rapid pace in Ohio and around the country, a group of Ohio State University researchers have begun focusing their expertise on studying industry in order to help inform policymakers, industry leaders and the public.
According to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Ohio had 215 horizontal wells drilled and 85 producing in 2012. Many more could be on the horizon: The department has now issued more than 850 drilling permits since 2010, a number that grows weekly. While not all permits will lead to producing wells, the department projects that the state will see markedly increased production as pipelines are installed and processing plants are completed.
The university formed a research cluster with a $50,000 seed grant from the university's Environmental Sciences Network in October 2012. The team, the Shale Environmental Management Research Cluster, has attracted about 30 Ohio State faculty members from four colleges across the campus: the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences, the College of Engineering, the College of Public Health, and the College of Arts and Sciences. The group also includes researchers from the University of Toledo's Department of Chemical and Environmental Engineering and several representatives from the U.S. Geological Survey's Ohio Water Science Center, and is partnering with faculty from West Virginia University under a new shale energy partnership.
All of the Ohio State faculty in the research cluster are also part of the university's Subsurface Energy Resource Center, established in 2011 to provide research and policy guidance in the shale arena. The center now has more than 80 affiliated researchers who provide foundational expertise and integrate research efforts across campus to answer important shale-related concerns.
"The shale energy industry is moving very quickly, and there's not really much science behind what's happening and what impact it can have, good or bad," says Zuzana Bohrerova, coordinator of the team and research specialist and associate director of Ohio State's Ohio Water Resources Center.
"There is a lot of misinformation and a lot of fear that does not have a lot of science behind it. We want to work on getting more data, so there can be responsible decision-making around shale issues," Bohrerova says.