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WVU Extension Service offers educational programs in oil and gas

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To help siphon through all the information regarding the issues of gas and oil, help is on the way.

Through the West Virginia University Extension Service, the public sector can gain a better understanding of oil and gas issues through the multiple educational programs. 

The service's Agriculture and Natural Resources Program Unit team provides educational programming to the public about natural gas exploration in the Marcellus shale

Team members are extension agents, WVU geologists, water quality experts, representatives of the DEP and representatives from industry, community and environmental groups.

"We provide scientific-based factual information regarding the rules, regulations and laws," said Georgette Plaugher, West Virginia University program coordinator. "We put together programs for the public that are available to anyone [and] [are] unbiased information."

According to the extension's web site, West Virginia is home to one of the largest Marcellus shale natural gas deposits on the East Coast. It lies beneath the surface of Ohio, West Virginia, Pennsylvania and New York. Also containing small areas of the Marcellus shale are Maryland, Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia.

The extension hosts educational programs across the state, with the southern region already having a few programs.  

Some of the goals the University Extension web site states are: 1.) Create a network of Extension personnel and other professionals in W. Va. that will become a statewide resource in assisting citizens who have resource concerns and questions regarding gas production in W. Va. 2.) To provide non-biased, research based educational material and programming to the citizens of W. Va., which in turn will allow them to make better educated decisions.            

In the southern region, most drillers use conventional drilling methods, instead of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing.

Conventional drilling involves a source rock, which is a specific rock unit where gas forms. An example of a source rock is the Marcellus shale. The gas leaves the rock unit for lower pressure and is trapped by a reservoir.

To acquire the gas using conventional drilling, reservoirs of natural gas are found and then drilled into to extract the gas.

In horizontal drilling, a well bore, which is the hole the well makes under the surface, is angled until it is horizontal.

Then, the well can be drilled horizontally. It can be drilled for thousands of feet and provides access to thin or compacted reservoirs that conventional drilling can't.

Hydraulic fracturing is a process that forces liquid into a gas-containing rock under high pressure. The fractures caused by the pressure form pathways for the natural gas to escape through the well bores.

In the Marcellus shale, water is mixed with chemicals and sand and the actual process of fracturing occurs in three stages.

The Extension Service offers presentations on safety at natural gas well sites, regulation issues, environmental impacts, landowner information and air, water and health concerns.

Through the offered programs and services, the goal to "strengthen leaders of all ages, youth and families and to improve [the] state's communities, workforce and the economy," the extension's web site states, can be met.