Unconventional Oil and Natural Gas: Research Agenda
The Final Strategic Research Agenda on the Potential Impacts of 21st Century Oil and Natural Gas Development in the Appalachian Region and Beyond (October 2015) was prepared by the Special Scientific Committee on Unconventional Oil and Gas Development in the Appalachian Basin. The Strategic Research Agenda is offered as an impartial, multidisciplinary guide for future research about potential adverse impacts of 21st century oil and natural gas development. The Research Agenda recommends research to better understand and to prevent or minimize potential impacts on human health and well-being, communities, ecological health, and the environment.
What is 21st century oil and natural gas development?
As used in the Research Agenda, “21st century oil and natural gas development” refers to the onshore development and production of oil and natural gas from unconventional geologic resources as practiced today, recognizing that industry practices continue to change in response to evolving technologies, regulations, and other factors. For simplicity, the term is abbreviated as “OGD” in the Research Agenda.
What is (and is not) included in this Research Agenda?
The Committee has sought to answer the following question to help inform future energy policy choices: Which potential impacts of OGD warrant priority consideration for scientific study? This document does not include an in-depth analysis of benefits of OGD or answer the question how potential OGD impacts compare with those from other energy sources. These questions were beyond the scope of the Committee's task. Governmental agencies and other organizations are actively engaged in the complex task of evaluating energy sources, while considering their ability to meet future energy requirements and climate-change potential.
This Research Agenda is intended to identify opportunities for government, the oil and natural gas industry, nongovernmental organizations, and academics to work cooperatively toward improving the understanding of potential impacts and making further advances in minimizing or preventing them. It also serves as a framework within which existing research efforts fit. The Research Agenda should therefore be implemented in careful coordination with others working actively in this area.
Highlights of the Committee's Research Questions Recommendations
The Committee identified 35 research questions that
Collectively indicate knowledge gaps; they are not findings of impacts.
Are linked to the ultimate goal of understanding and preventing or minimizing potential impacts on human and ecological health and well-being.
Apply broadly to Appalachia and other regions.
Fall into three general areas of research: (1) stressor and exposure characterization; (2) health and well-being assessment; and (3) evaluation of most-effective practices.
13 of the 35 questions are identified as high priorities, although all questions are important topics of inquiry.
The recommended research includes opportunities for government, industry, nongovernmental organizations, and academics to work cooperatively, contributing to new research and, as much as possible, building on existing research programs to expedite implementation.
In view of the importance of implementing the Research Agenda as quickly as possible, HEI has reached out to key potential partners and sources of funding from government, industry and the foundation community. The Research Agenda will form the basis of a targeted HEI Research Program, which will be described in a draft Implementation Plan to be released in 2016.