Drilling is set to begin in West Virginia in what is being billed as the first long-term field study of shale drilling for natural gas.
Northeast Natural Energy of Charleston is scheduled to drill Friday in Morgantown.
The drilling is part of the Marcellus Shale Energy and Environmental Laboratory, which was launched in 2014 by West Virginia University. Its partners in the five-year, $11 million project include Ohio State University and the U.S. Department of Energy.
WVU says scientists will study the process from beginning to end. Concerned residents and environmental groups worry because the Northeast well pad is at the Morgantown Industrial Park-- located just up the hill from the Monongahela River, and just 1500 feet upstream from the city’s drinking water intake.
But researchers and industry professionals alike say risks are low at this drilling pad because of the expected oversight.
“This is actually probably going to be the safest well in the world,” said Director of WVU Energy Institute and Morgantown resident, Brian J. Anderson at the onset of the project.
Since the project began, scientists have been monitoring baseline air, noise, light and water at the site. Those assessments will continue through the life cycle of the project.
The much-criticized drilling process called fracking has opened vast reserves of natural gas. WVU scientists say since originally drilled in 2011, the site in Morgantown provides the majority of the natural gas consumed by local residents.