July 18, 2011

Land use by hydrofracking operations

When I was in high school, a friend of mine's family had a natural gas well across the road from their farmhouse. I drove by yesterday, and it's still there, a probably 30' by 20' space of pipes surrounded by hedges with some gates for vehicular access. It is, of course, a traditional well, and that was a lot of why I wasn't worried initially about the prospect of gas drilling coming to Dryden.

As I noted Saturday, though, the drilling model for the Marcellus shale uses approximately 8.8 acres per well pad, though each of those pads will probably support 8-12 wells. Where does that land go?

The TCCOG presentation slides' Part B (7.8MB PDF) describe an average area per well on page 9:

Western PA Aerial photo studies show average of 8.8 acres per site: 3.1 acre pad, 5.7 acres access road, impoundment.

The pad itself is the hub of activity, but getting lots and lots of heavy equipment there means building roads, and the volume of water involved means digging and lining water impoundment pools. Those can be several acres just by themselves, and they aren't swimming pools - they're stoutly defended by fencing, as is all of this, to keep visitors out.

8.8 acres is a good chunk of land, but admittedly it's only 1.375% of the area of a 640 acre drilling unit, and, at least in theory, will be restored to its original configuration when all of this is done.

There are a few extra issues here. The pieces aren't necessarily one neat chunk of land. Impoundments are usually set off from the drilling pads, and the length of the roads is largely determined by the landscape.

Posted by simon at July 18, 2011 6:03 PM in
Note on photos