Research Areas

Penn State has leading scholars and researchers working on many critical areas of research related to Marcellus shale development. Those faculty and professional staff are committed to extending science-based information to stakeholder groups including federal and state legislators, the natural gas industry, environmental organizations and the public.

The Marcellus Center for Outreach and Research aims to coordinate and facilitate programs of research and outreach and to address the complete range of issues presented by development of the Marcellus Shale and other gas shales.

Major research activities currently supported by MCOR include:

  • Orphaned and Abandoned Wells
    Legacy oil and gas development in Pennsylvania has resulted in over 300,000 wells being drilled in the Commonwealth since Col. Drake's first oil well in 1859. It is estimated that over half of these orphaned or abandoned wells have unknown locations, no viable owner, were never properly decommissioned, and therefore may continue to vent methane or leak hydrocarbons and brine into fresh water resources. In order to make progress to identify these wells and properly decommission them, MCOR has been working with citizen scientists to train them to identify these wells in the field so that they can be added to the state's database and be properly sealed in the future as funds become available. For more information on Penn State's orphaned and abandoned well efforts click here (Marcellus Matters Orphaned and Abandoned Wells Program)
  • Monitoring Seismicity in Pennsylvanias
    The Pennsylvania State Seismic Network (PASEIS) is operated by Penn State for the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) and the Department of Environmental Protect (DEP). The network consists of 30 broadband seismic stations spread across the Commonwealth recording data continuously. Data from the PASEIS stations are combined with data from 41 other seismic stations within and surrounding Pennsylvania to detect and locate seismic events in near-real time. Information about the network and seismic event locations can be found at:
  • Mapping Depth-to-Basement in the Appalachian Basin
    The goal of this project is to improve understanding of the depth to crystalline rocks (i.e. basement) underlying the sedimentary rocks of the Appalachian Basin. Existing maps of "depth to basement" for Pennsylvania are being improved by using seismic data and well log information to estimate the thickness of the sedimentary rocks in the basin. An improved understanding of the depth to basement is important for mitigating against seismicity induced by fluid injection into the subsurface at wastewater disposal wells and hydraulic fracturing wells.
  • Developing a Fault Database for Pennsylvania
    Coupled to the basement map project is a project to improve the database of faults within Pennsylvania, particularly within the Appalachian basin. The database of fault information is being assembled using open databases, published studies of faults, interpretations of regional seismic data, and well log information. An improved understanding of faults within the Appalachian Basin can be used to investigate natural gas emissions, groundwater systems, and induced seismicity.
  • Mapping Shale Depth and Thickness
    MCOR has created depth and thickness maps for both the Marcellus and Utica/Point Pleasant Shales that are available to the general public via MCOR's website. In the five years since those maps were generated thousands of wells have been drilled and their logs provide a more robust geologic data set that will allow these maps to be updated for use by researchers, industry, regulators and other stakeholders.
  • Water Quality
    A common challenge to conducting environmental research on shale energy development is the lack of publically accessible datasets. Regulatory agencies routinely collect large volumes of environmental data using taxpayer dollars, including air and water quality measurements, but making them openly available for research often is a low priority for the agencies. We are working with the Shale Network ( ) to curate and make publically available water quality data held in the archives of the PA Department of Environmental Protection.

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