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Friday, 2 August 2013

Issue 6. Fracked shale gas wells will pepper the countryside with unsightly eyesores

No. Finished facilities are small and effective compared to the benefits they give, but care in their placement and management are important for the environment nevertheless.

The important thing is to contrast the experience in the USA when the technology was new, regulation was lax and there is a low population density, with the UK where the technology is maturing, regulations are strict on a local, national and European level, and the population density is such that invasive permanent structures are abhorred.

During the development stage, a drilling and fracking pad, with its associated power supplies and fluid ponds will take up approximately 2 hectares. Up to 10 wells may be drilled and fracked from this one pad, with the wells deviating at depth and fanning out horizontally in up to 40 laterals (perhaps in different shale layers) to exploit gas from a large volume of shale that serves to produce an underground are of about 30 square kilometers.

In other words, a single pad serves to produce a large subsurface volume. Once finished, each well-head occupies less volume than a family car (less that 2x2 meters, and about the height of a man). An artists impression of a finished pad of wells is shown in the figure below where the 12 wells are at the centre, taking little space, and the buildings are for storage. Most of the area is for movement and parking of occasional maintenance vehicles. This figure was produced by Cuadrilla Resources Ltd., but is consistent with current best practice.