Courtesy of MCT
Ohio State and West Virginia University recently signed a partnership contract to conduct tens of millions of dollars worth of shale energy research in the Appalachian region.
Shale energy comes from grained rock that has oil components, which can be harvested for an alternative to conventional crude oil.
OSU President E. Gordon Gee signed the agreement on Feb. 8, followed by WVU President Jim Clements on Feb. 11, but the idea for the partnership was discussed last April at the “2012 Public and Land-Grant University Conference on Energy Challenges,” according to a press release.
Tim Carr, a professor of geology at WVU and director of the Shale Gas Research Center, said that while no specific start date for the research has been determined, the universities did define research areas during their most recent meeting, with plans to focus on subsurface area, utilization, environment and public policies.
The collective research results could ultimately benefit students, the companies that are drilling wells and the environment, Carr said, and there is also the possibility to help the economy.
“If we can keep it going and there’s a lot of tax dollars flowing in, then it benefits our state and local governments,” Carr said.
Before any projects can be started, however, expenses have to be addressed.
Carr said the research will likely cost tens of millions of dollars and will force universities to look into ways to fund the projects, such as research grants.
Jeff Daniels, an OSU earth sciences professor, expects research organizations like the National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health, National Technology Lab and the Department of Energy to play a role in the research as well.
Ultimately, Daniels said there is hope the research OSU conducts will lead to even more funding.
“We feel very strongly that this is actually going to generate funding for the university because we’re going to have a better ability to attract funding for research and education and outreach efforts,” Daniels said. “So there’s not going to be a big up-front or annual cost to the university other than a little bit of travel money, I suppose, that faculty will generally provide out of their own funds.”
Daniels said those researchers will come from across the university, in the College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, the School of Environment and Natural Resources, the College of Arts and Sciences, the College of Engineering and the College of Public Health.
The varying skills of OSU and WVU in those fields could mean the development of a strong, collaborative effort in research, Daniels said.
“I think we have two universities that happen to have strengths in certain areas that are very complementary,” he said. “And combining our efforts, we’re clearly going to make the sum greater than the parts, the total greater than our individual efforts, and we will be able to be more effective in our research and educational outreach efforts in the Appalachian region.”
Carr said the cooperation between the schools should be positive.
“There are strengths on both sides,” Carr said. “It’s just trying to build something up. It lets us see if we can do things together. It doesn’t stop at the Ohio River, it goes right merrily across.”
Despite the optimism of the universities regarding potential findings, one student shared his opposing thoughts on the partnership.
Daniel DiMarino, a second-year in environmental science and theater, said while he understands the purpose behind the research, he believes the time and money could be better spent focusing on other issues.
“I don’t know if it’s the best way that we can be allocating our resources and our time,” DiMarino said. “I’d rather see us doing something involving wind energy or solar power and implementing some sort of program related to another form of energy that’s actually clean energy.”