YSU STEM has a new minor! Natural Gas and Water Resources!

YSU STEM students now have the opportunity to pursue a new and relevant academic minor in Natural Gas and Water Resources, a program that provides a focus on the emerging oil and gas industry. The STEM College’s Department of Geological and Environmental Science heads this minor.

With the rapid emergence of the regional natural gas industry, the Natural Gas and Water Resources Minor at YSU was first proposed in November 2011 and was quickly approved by the Board of Trustees in April 2012.

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YSU Engineering Students Win Award in Fracking Wastewater Treatment Competition

Youngstown State University (YSU) Civil Engineering students placed third out of ten universities in an Environmental Design Competition held at the University of Pittsburgh on March 31. The contest was part of the annual American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) Ohio Valley Student Conference. Other universities participating included the University of Kentucky, University of Pittsburgh, University of Akron, Cleveland State University, Ohio State University, University of Cincinnati, and Ohio University.

The main goal of the competition was to remove barium and turbidity from wastewater generated by hydraulic fracturing (or “fracking”) of shale for natural gas wells. The YSU team added simple household chemicals – Epsom salts (magnesium sulfate) and baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) – to precipitate barium sulfate and neutralize pH, then passed the water through a sand filter to remove turbidity. Their design removed 93% of barium and 98% of turbidity from the wastewater. Their treatment performance score tied them for first place in this category with the University of Kentucky.

Research on the treatment method was performed by Darshan Baral, a graduate student in Civil Engineering. In laboratory studies, Darshan was able to achieve 99.9% removal of barium. The treatment apparatus was prepared and operated by Tom Bowser and Sentel Rodgers, both seniors majoring in Civil Engineering. The students were advised by Drs. Scott Martin (Civil Engineering) and Felicia Armstrong (Environmental Studies).

YSU develops Natural Gas and Water Resources Institute

Youngstown State University is developing a new institute designed to educate professionals and provide research for the emerging multi-billion dollar shale natural gas industry in Ohio and Pennsylvania.

The YSU Natural Gas and Water Resources Institute will provide bachelor’s degree level courses in science and engineering that will lead to an academic minor in gas technologies and also will provide research opportunities for industry focusing on analysis of water used in the shale gas extraction process.

“Given YSU’s location in the heart of the Utica shale region, this new Institute is well-poised to meet the educational and research demands and needs central to this new and growing industry,” said Martin Abraham, dean of the YSU College of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, in which the new Institute will be located.

“Establishing YSU’s presence in this fast-changing field is a critical necessity if we are to have a role in educating the future workforce to support this economic growth opportunity.”

Formation of the Institute was announced this morning at the Youngstown, Ohio Utica and Natural Gas Conference and Expo in the Covelli Centre in downtown Youngtown. The event, presented by the Youngstown Warren Regional Chamber, is the first conference and exhibition solely focused on Ohio’s emerging shale gas industry.

The Utica shale is a large rock formation thousands of feet below the surface spanning an area from eastern Ohio to Pennsylvania and across the Canadian border. Gas contained in the Utica shale is expected to become a dominant source of natural gas in the United States in this decade. A recent study showed that more than 200,000 jobs, including nearly 9,000 in professional and technical services, will be created or supported by 2015 due to exploration, leasing, drilling and pipeline construction for the Utica shale reserve.

One of the significant issues for the extraction of the gas is the use and recovery of large volumes of water used in the hydraulic fracturing process and the need to treat, analyze and monitor this water.

The YSU Natural Gas and Water Resources Institute will provide research on water-related issues such as analysis and monitoring, remote sensing, remediation and treatment, and reuse and recycle, utilizing faculty and facilities in YSU’s chemistry, mechanical engineering, environmental science, chemical engineering, geology and civil engineering departments.

In addition, the Institute’s educational component will establish an academic minor in natural gas and water resources for students interested in careers in professional and technical fields directly related to shale gas and other unconventional resources, or the petroleum industry in general. Most of the faculty, expertise, courses and laboratory components for the new minor already exist in the STEM College, Abraham said. A few new courses will be created to provide specific technical competencies required for understanding water resource issues associated with the Utica and Marcellus formations.

The concept of the new Institute will be presented to the YSU Board of Trustees in December. Abraham said he hopes to work with an industrial advisory board to identify specific research targets for the new institute and complete the development of the minor by next fall. The first students in the new minor in natural gas and water resources could graduate as early as May 2013.