When it comes to scenic and dynamic terrain, the Mountain State has plenty to offer budding geologists.

Meg Walker-Milani, a master’s student in the Department of Geology & Geography at West Virginia University, decided to focus on the Marcellus Shale formation in West Virginia for her thesis project. Her research examines how the rocks were formed by describing the rocks and interpreting them in terms of their depositional environment.

“This research should help us better understand the reservoir,” said Walker-Milani.

Marcellus Shale is a rock formation that underlies much of West Virginia, Pennsylvania and New York. It is believed to hold trillions of cubic feet of natural gas, which may lead to increases in gas well drilling.

“This research can help us determine where the best gas shale is,” said Tim Carr, a geology professor. “It helps to know how things accumulated, because then you know where to look and how to best produce it.”

To conduct her analysis of the rocks, Walker-Milani used a piece of equipment called a spectral scintillometer. This device measures the amount of thorium, uranium and potassium in the rock.

Once the data is collected, Walker-Milani will create a log curve to correlate to subsurface data. This way, her interpretation of the rocks can be compared with subsurface well data.

“I’ve had a lot of fun conducting this research,” she said. “I’ve gotten to see all of West Virginia, including little nooks and crannies that you would never see unless you were trying to get lost.”

Walker-Milani’s advisor is Richard Smosna, a geology professor whose research interests include sedimentology, stratigraphy and petroleum geology.

“We need to know a lot more about the physical, chemical and geological make-up of the Marcellus Shale in order to properly assess its petroleum potential,” said Smosna. “The importance of Meg’s study is that in eastern West Virginia the Marcellus is well exposed at the surface for examination.”

Walker-Milani’s research is supported by grants from Enerplus Resources Corporation, the URS Corporation and the U.S. Department of Energy. The grant money has allowed her to complete her fieldwork as a research assistant. In August, Walker-Milani will graduate with her master’s degree in geology and go on to work for Shell Corporation.

For more information, contact Tim Carr, professor of geology, at (304) 293-9660 or Tim.Carr@mail.wvu.edu.



CONTACT: Devon Copeland, Eberly College interim director of communications
304-293-7405, ext. 5251, Devon.Copeland@mail.wvu.edu

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