Scope of Work


Given the complex issues associated with unconventional gas resources, the Institute will address a variety of areas — including geology, biology, environmental chemistry, sociology, regional planning, and multidisciplinary topics. We seek to disseminate information not only within New York State, but to the entire Eastern region that is impacted by shale gas and oil development (e.g. Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and North Carolina) — as well as to the national and global communities. The publications will remain strictly objective, regardless of the sources of funding.Currently, the Institute is focusing on producing three types of publications:

1)      Survey papers based on literature review:  These publications may include articles that review all literature on a certain topic (for example, the effects of Marcellus gas drilling on rural drinking water).  One planned article is “Environmental Violations during Marcellus Shale Gas Drilling: Causes, Impacts, and Remedies” by Institute Director John Martin, coauthored with colleagues from the University of Wyoming and Penn State. Additional topics may include surveys of black shales of New York State, including the Upper Devonian (R.D. Jacobi) and the Ordovician Utica Shales (R. D. Jacobi, G. Smith and C. Mitchell) and a review of produced water disposal options (J. Martin and others).   The Institute also plans to produce fracture intensity maps and surveys of important faults in New York State.

2)      Research papers: These papers will capitalize on work already completed by Institute personnel, but will be tailored to address specific audiences. Topics may include context-sensitive development; effects of wells on families; sociological impacts on communities and families in “boom and bust” environments; understanding how fluids move through fractures, understanding the tectonic and sedimentological controls on total organic carbon (TOC), understanding fracture and fault patterns and their timing relative to gas generation, and development of coherent, rational policies in the face of disparate resource estimates.

3)      Position papers on regulatory climates: The Institute will objectively investigate the regulatory climate of New York State and other jurisdictions, in an effort to answer questions regarding the processes that regulators follow and act upon; the implications of New York’s regulatory structure; and how scientific knowledge has informed (and could better inform) such regulations.

Publications will be submitted for peer review and posted in PDF format on the Institute’s website, thus fulfilling the University at Buffalo’s service mission. Articles will also be submitted to professional and academic journals for publication.

Public Outreach and Education

SRSI will strive to provide a voice in the energy dialogue though teaching, lectures, and information dissemination. These Institute activities are expected to revolve around the political, economic, and environmental complexities associated with shale gas development.

University at Buffalo Courses: As part of its core mission, SRSI is developing a suite of course modules to be offered beginning in the fall semester of 2012.  These modules will cover a range of important subjects that will be of interest to students contemplating an oil and gas career, and will complement courses that the UB Geology Department presently offers. The fall 2012 courses include:

1) Stratigraphy (Introduction and Northern Appalachian Basin), taught by Cary Kuminecz, who has over 31 years of experience as an active petroleum geologist.  He worked at Exxon USA, National Fuel Gas Company, Seneca Resources Corporation, and now is President of StratResources Geologic Consulting, LLC.

2) Advanced Stratigraphy (Black Shales in the Appalachian Basin), taught by Dr. Gary Lash, who has taught at SUNY Fredonia since 1981. His contributions to the science of black shales have made his name one of the most respected in that field in the world.  Recently, Lash, shared 36th place among the “Top 100 Global Thinkers” named by Foreign Policy magazine.

3)  Sedimentology (Clastic Depositional Environments), taught by Dr. Gerry Smith, who is employed at a local oil-and-gas exploration company working on black shale exploration in the Appalachian Basin, as well as exploration opportunities in the Fort Worth, Williston, Michigan, Wind River and Denver basins. His research has focused on the stratigraphy and depositional environments of the Upper Devonian Appalachian Basin.

4) Northern Appalachian Basin Faults, Fractures, and Tectonic and their Effects on the Utica, Marcellus, and Geneseo Black Shales – an AAPG/UB Advanced Fracture-Tectonics Course taught by Robert Jacobi, Co-Director of SRSI.

Potential courses include: Modern Well Log Interpretation: Critical Elements for Black Shales; Seismic Acquisition and Interpretation; Plate Tectonics Overview; Regulatory Issues and Environment; and Energy Economics. The courses will be taught by experts from industry and academia, including Drs. Jacobi and Martin.

Public Seminar Series: Building on the successful 2011 Marcellus Shale Lecture Series, SRSI will continue to host an annual public lecture series focusing on topical energy issues.

Distinguished Lecturer Program: Though the weather is often quite nice in Buffalo, not everyone can manage a trip to participate in the lecture series. SRSI will sponsor the Distinguished Lecturer Program to provide high quality speakers for industry and civic events. These lecturers will be selected from affiliated UB and non-UB faculty. Annual topics will be selected to reflect the critical research and policy issues of the moment.

Ask SRSI Program: Another university mission is providing real-time policy guidance for community and government leaders. In addition to long-term research projects, SRSI will strive to address immediate and time-sensitive answers to pressing energy questions. Institute staff will help give objectivity to various actions and reports that are constantly bombarding policymakers. An example of this program is the release of a study to help guide the implementation of the Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement (SGEIS) by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC).  As the need arises, SRSI can provide critical baseline information on the known geological and environmental effects of shale gas development, based on cases in other states.

Corporate Education Series: The research associates of SRSI offer a wealth of academic and industry experience. The Institute is developing a series of workshops and seminars to help industry understand the complex scientific, social, and policy issues facing energy development. Already, Dr. Robert Jacobi leads a very successful geological field study for industry. This offering will be expanded into other topical areas. SRSI will also develop custom offerings at the request of corporate affiliates.

Future Activities

The need for critical research will continue to expand and develop, as global growth drives energy demand and the need for new energy sources. We envision that future research activities will evolve to address more pressing concerns related to this growth and development. The unique opportunity to study the development of shale resources in New York State from the start offers a truly unique opportunity. Applying these lessons beyond New York remains the future challenge.

Moving forward, SRSI research will remain strictly objective regardless of the sources of funding. Topics and questions may include:

1) Rocks, Fractures, Fluids, and Migration:

  • What are the controls on high resolution stratigraphic variations, including TOC, in the Marcellus and Utica shales?
  • What are the controls on, and characteristics of, the fracture systems in the black shales?
  • What are the characteristics of the faults and fault patterns in the black shales?
  • Can hydraulic fracture fluids be made both better and safer?
  • How effective are seals of faults in the black shales?
  • Are faults in black shales conductors of frac fluid?
  • How far upsection and along horizons can frac fluid migrate?
  • What are the controls on radioactivity in the black shales?
  • What are the controls on uptake of carbon and other elements and compounds from migrating fluids?

2) Groundwater and Surface Environmental Impacts:

  • What is the impact of natural gas production on water quantity in New York State? 
  • What will be the response of surface water-groundwater systems to variable pumping scenarios?
  • How can large quantities of water be safely transported and treated within New York to ensure a supply of clean drinking water, but also the large volumes of water necessary for hydraulic fracture stimulation?
  • Under what conditions can flowback and/or produced waters from hydraulic fracture stimulation be safely released and reused?
  • In specific, sensitive cases, how do we manage environmental restoration so that natural settings can be ensured for outdoor activities?

3) Societal Impacts:

  • What will be the interaction between increased natural gas production and renewable energy development?
  • What will be the environmental impact of switching transportation from oil-based fuels to natural gas?
  • What is needed to ensure that shale gas and oil resources represent a long-term transformation in the economy, environment, and citizenry of affected regions?
  • How can we leverage the infrastructure (transport, transmission and information) improvements and modifications necessitated by shale gas development into better living environments?
  • What are best practices for managing cultural resources and other societal and environmental impacts of shale resource development, and for facilitating tribal consultation with Native American stakeholders?

4) Policy and Regulation:

  • How does current environmental law consider the lifecycle impacts of shale resource development?
  • How will application of new Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) air emissions requirements affect shale resource development?
  • How can the Institute effect material improvements for increased sustainability and minimized environmental impact?