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College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences


Ag, Rural Issues Central to New Ohio State Center for Subsurface Energy

September 29, 2011

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Natural gas production from shale deposits could significantly change the rural economic landscape in states like Ohio, and will be a key focus of Ohio State University’s new Subsurface Energy Resource Center, according to the Center’s co-director, agricultural economist Douglas Southgate.

Southgate, a professor in the Department of Agricultural, Environmental and Development Economics and a research economist with the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center (OARDC), was named co-director of the newly created Center because of the broad implications of shale gas production in rural communities and economies.

“The Center will coordinate research that occurs at Ohio State in a number of departments and a number of colleges,” Southgate said of the collaborate effort. “Geophysicists, engineers, economists, and others will study these developments. The idea is to have some representation in the social sciences, which are important in terms of understanding how issues like economic output and tax revenues are expected to respond to shale development.”

Southgate will lead the Center from the paradigm of the social sciences, while co-director Jeffrey Daniels, professor in the School of Earth Sciences, brings the perspective of the natural sciences to the effort.

The University launched the new Center to leverage faculty expertise in the areas of economics, law and policy; earth science; engineering; energy and environmental science; extension and community development; and public health. Researchers and OSU Extension professionals will conduct relevant research and serve as a resource to subsurface energy stakeholders.

“The fundamental objective is to provide objective information about this shale gas development, about water impacts, community impacts, and so forth,” Southgate said. “The University will be a neutral and objective source of information, in part involving research, and as findings become available, they will be disseminated in large part through a large Extension working group on shale gas.”

Southgate credited the OSU Extension Shale Energy Education Work Group as a key reason for the formation of the new Center, noting that the group will continue its current operation and serve as the primary entity to coordinate public outreach and education efforts from the Center. Ohio State Extension educators have conducted 39 shale energy related education programs to date, reaching 4,318 participants throughout Ohio.

Creation of the Center was necessitated by what Southgate observed to be a quickly-developing need in the state for research and understanding of the issues and implications of local energy production.

“The industry seems to be evolving rapidly,” Southgate said. “There is a major focus on the Utica formation and there is no sign this interest will let up any time soon. The Utica is a bit deeper than the Marcellus formation, which is better known, and the focus of a lot of development in Pennsylvania in recent years.”

Southgate said because the Utica development is a more recent discovery, there is much yet to learn about the opportunities and challenges associated with its development.

He said the deposit appears to contain a significant quantity of oil and natural gas liquids, including ethane, which he referred to as a basic building block for most chemicals. As such, a number of industries in Ohio could benefit from a robust shale gas “play.”

“One of the specific things I’m doing is to organize a group of social scientists and policy specialists to study this new industry, and not just the gas extraction itself, but also the implications for the state in other industries, like the steel and chemical industries. There are a number of industrial consequences of this development.”

To read the release on the creation of the Center from University Communications, click here.


Andy Vance
Douglas Southgate