3. WELL INJECTION PART II: DRILLING
“After the geophysical team identifies the optimal location for a well, it is necessary for the
drilling company to ensure that it completes all the necessary steps so that it can legally
drill in that area. This usually involves securing permits for the drilling operations,
establishment of a legal arrangement to allow the natural gas company to extract and sell the
resources under a given area of land, and a design for gathering lines that will connect the
well to the pipeline. There are a variety of potential owners of the land and mineral rights of
a given area. To learn more about permitting, leasing, and royalties associated with the
extraction of natural gas, visit [this website].” -naturalgas.org
A well pad is the area of land used for oil/gas well construction and looks like this:
There are two types of wells: a single well, and multi-well pad.
After a location is selected, the well pad surface is prepared by boring different types of
starter holes and setting up the blow out preventer. The blow out preventer is “A large valve
at the top of a well that may be closed if the drilling crew loses control of formation
fluids.” (csur.com). Then assembly of the drilling rig can occur.
THIS MULTI-WELL PAD WAS ULTIMATELY APPROVED.
[Excerpts from Bureau of Land Management, Wyoming, Environmental Assessment]
EOG proposes to explore for and develop oil and natural gas reserves underlying oil and gas
leases they own. EOG proposes to drill, complete, produce, and eventually reclaim up to 30 well
bores …. from 5 separate well pads. Up to 6 wells would be horizontally drilled from each
(EXPLORATION & INFRASTRUCTURE): EOG’s plan of development is to drill the first 2 wells
on each well pad back-to-back. The additional wells on each pad may be drilled later…,
depending on the performance of the first 2 wells, and additional reservoir evaluation.
Associated infrastructure would include access roads, gathering lines, and powerlines required
for access to the well pads, and operations of oil and gas production. The life of each
productive well is anticipated to be up to 40 years.
EOG anticipates completing drilling and construction in 3 years. Drilling and construction is
year-round in the region [Wyoming]…
(WATER USAGE): EOG proposes using fresh water for drilling and cementing obtained
from outside the project boundary and hauled to location by transport trucks using the existing
and proposed roads… EOG plans to obtain fresh water from either the City of Wright, Wyoming
or the Arbalest Water Well… EOG may obtain additional water from a municipal water source if
needed. EOG obtained a water appropriation permit through the State of Wyoming Office of State
EOG estimated 11,900 barrels of water (approximately 15 truckloads per day) are
required for drilling each well. EOG estimated 24,000 barrels of water and approximately 26
truckloads per day are required for completion operations on the first well located on a pad.
Each additional well will require the same amount of water but the truckloads per day would be
reduced to 18.
(TRAFFIC PER DAY): EOG estimates that during the drilling phase of each individual
well (about 20-25 days per well) the average daily truck traffic to and from the location would
be approximately 15 large trucks (water haulers, cement trucks, etc.) and 3 personal
pickup trucks per day. During the well completion process (a 2 week period per well) the
average daily traffic would increase to 26 large trucks and 2 personal pickup trucks
Here is a 3D overview of the horizontal drilling process by Chesapeake Energy:
The well pad construction and drilling are the precursors to hydraulic fracturing and can in
and of itself be a major environmental and social disturbance.
Shale reservoirs are massive, therefore multiple drilling operations can occur at a time in an
area. The well pad and associated construction of roads, pipelines, power lines, and housing
for the hundreds of workers can dramatically change the landscape. Below are two photo examples
of the type of habitat fragmentation which can occur. Some of the sites are abandoned, while
more lucrative wells will likely be in operation for multiple decades.
WHAT DOES HABITAT FRAGMENTATION DO?
“Forest fragmentation is the process of breaking up large patches of forest into smaller
pieces. … Forest fragmentation may reduce biodiversity by making it more difficult for some
species to breed or find food. Forests act as filters, and removing forest near streams may
adversely affect water quality and human drinking water supplies. Continued fragmentation can
lead to deforestation, which may accelerate global warming by releasing carbon stored in
From the Institute on the Environment, Uni of Minnesota:
“In 1969, the first, iconic photos of the Earth from outer space touched the hearts of humanity
with Its simplicity and beauty. Seeing for the first time this “big blue marble” in an immense
galaxy brought home to many that we live on One Earth — a fragile, interdependent ecosystem.
And our responsibility to protect the health and well-being of that ecosystem began to dawn on
the collective consciousness of the world.” -UN.org
Additionally, when wild forest habitat disappears and land is exposed to wind and light, weeds
and pests thrive. All of these things affect our health in different ways (allergies, bacteria
growth, disease). Therefore industry development which accelerates habitat destruction is
something of a concern.
[Excerpt from ‘U.S. Geological Survey Documenting Land Disturbance From Natural Gas Drilling‘ by Marie Cusick]
The USGS-funded project has been underway for a little over two years and has documented a
reduction of Pennsylvania’s interior forests– habitats for sensitive plant and animal species.
So far, the federal government has examined 14 Pennsylvania counties where drilling is
occurring and plans to publish several more reports before the end of the year.
Lesley Milheim is a USGS scientist who co-authored the reports. She examined both conventional
drilling and unconventional Marcellus shale sites between 2004 and 2010.
She says depending on the type of the development the landscape disturbance will change.
“The Marcellus sites are larger than the conventional sites, but there’s fewer of them so the
pattern is different.”
Milheim says the biggest change they’ve documented is the reduction of interior forests.
Forest fragmentation can occur with the development of drilling infrastructure like roads and
“While [sites are] under development, there’s a lot of equipment,” she says, “It can change the
forest. Some species do not survive well in disturbed areas and will leave the area if there is
The bill would force the two state commissions that oversee the list to prove the presence of
endangered species, rather than requiring gas companies to conduct their own habitat field
Many people who rely on intact ecosystems and habitat for their livelihoods will see the
landscape changes and worry. These include subsistence hunters, nomadic herders, people who
rely on wild species of plants for food and medicine, and thousands of indigenous cultures
around the world.
INDIGENOUS PEOPLES RIGHT TO CONSENT
Unfortunately this type of consultation is rarely done. Furthermore, consent is not generally
sought after, and therefore the people who live off of the environment have little or no say in
the decision to extract oil & gas. This marginalizes a community who will likely feel the brunt
of any negative effects of drilling, and possibly no benefits.
Below is a two-part case study. The first is an article describing cultural anxieties of
natural gas production, its disruption of reindeer herds and its effects on the Nenets’ way of
life. The second part is the fracking company’s description of their cooperative efforts to
allow reindeer crossings over the built infrastructure, including stopping traffic, building
raised or buried pipelines, and lining roads with geofabric for sleds.
“For them it is fortune, for us terror,” said 20-year-old herder Andrei Yezgini, dressed from
head to toe in reindeer skin, referring to ambitious plans by state gas giant Gazprom (GAZP.MM)
to drill the region Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has described as “the world’s storehouse” of
gas and oil.
Putin jetted into the sparsely populated region within the Arctic circle, 2,000 km (1,250
miles) northeast of Moscow, in late September to woo foreign partners to develop a quarter of
the world’s known gas reserves.
Experts and the Nenets say industry will damage and pollute the tundra, whose flat marshy
terrain switches from marigold russets in summer to thick winter snow and is peppered with
disc-like thermokarst lakes and crystal blue waterways.
Nenets migrate north to south over 150 km every year, spending only a few days in one place,
living off reindeer and fish and lugging their “chums”, or tents, kerosene lamps and wood-fired
stoves on reindeer-pulled sleighs.
“The fact they’ve found deposits here is catastrophic,” said Slava Vanuito, 34, his Asiatic
eyes narrowing as a gust of Arctic wind sweeps over a tundra bouncy from the thick carpet of
springy moss that feeds the reindeer.
Like many young Nenets men, Vanuito served in the Russian army — he fought against Chechens in
the first separatist war — and decided to return to his nomadic life in Yamal, which means
“world’s end” in Nenets, a distant relative of Finnish.
Numbering around 42,000, the Nenets are entirely dependent on reindeer, which appear on the
Yamal region’s crest, and are animists. Their strict code of superstitions and gender divisions
has been virtually untouched for at least a millennium.
BROKEN DEER LEGS
From a Soviet-made helicopter, a bright blue train with 20 wagons can be seen snaking through
the tundra, part of a newly-opened railway which experts say heralds severe damage.
Opened by Putin last month, it will serve Russia’s biggest gas field Bovanenkovo at the top of
Yamal, which will feed the Nord Stream pipeline to Germany from 2012, and runs around two-
thirds of the 700-km-long peninsula.
Yezgini said it is breaking the legs of the deer. “There’s debris and gravel around the tracks,
frightening and hurting them.” He added pastures around the track have lost shrubbery.
Bruce Forbes, research professor in global change at the University of Lapland in Finland, said
the railway is only the beginning: “We are just seeing the tip of the iceberg in terms of
destruction,” he told Reuters by telephone.
The government is keen to develop the Yamalo-Nenets region as soon as possible. Last month it
proposed tax breaks to entice foreign firms to drill the frozen mass of land, which has field
reserves of 16 trillion cubic metres.
Already Russia’s main gas-producing region, Gazprom said it gives Yamal 20 billion roubles
($665 million) every year, but declined to comment on how the money is distributed.
Yamal accounts for more than 90 percent of Gazprom’s gas output, and total revenues last year
stood at 3.5 trillion roubles.
Vanuito, sharpening a saw for antler trimming, dismissed such claims by Gazprom as “rubbish”.
He said they received a “pittance” of a monthly state stipend of 2,000 roubles ($66).
In January, Forbes sent a research report to the firms urging the coexistence of oil and gas
activities with the Nenets by asking companies to respect their demands, such as no illegal
hunting by gas workers and the burying of pipelines.
Citing herders and administration officials, he said compensations for pasture degradation and
land withdrawals tended to be absorbed by local government and did not reach the Nenets.
“The European Union needs to be more responsible ethically and morally when considering where
they want to buy their gas from,” he said, adding Western firms had responded positively to the
It is not the first time Russian indigenous people have come under threat from industry. Rights
groups say energy firms do not fully respect the culture of the Khanty in Russia’s oil-
producing region of Khanty-Mansiysk in west Siberia.
Moscow has offered the Nenets free houses in Yamal’s capital Salekhard, but Forbes said that
was missing the point: “Their animals and their space in the tundra give them complete
Some state benefits are welcomed by the Nenets — helicopters take them to towns of several
hundred people an hour’s flight away and children from age seven are sent to Russian-language
schools in towns where they live with other Nenets families.
“I just pray Gazprom won’t change us,” said Yezgini’s mother Valentina, 52. “I want my
grandchildren to see our land as it is: beautiful, fresh, full of berries and deer.””
“The Yamal Peninsula where the Bovanenkovo field is located features the biggest domestic
reindeer population in the world, namely, over 300 thousand animals, of which about 20 per cent
belongs to three municipal reindeer herding enterprises, and the others – to private herders,
the communities of indigenous minorities of the North. Moreover, each herd has its own route of
moving across the Yamal Peninsula or, as they put it, the ‘nomad route’.
They say that it is not the herder who grazes his herd, but the herd that grazes its herder. In
summer, running away from gnats and ‘heat’ (here in Yamal ‘heat’ is any temperature above 0°C),
the herds head off northwards. And deer will take the familiar route to the north, which is
known to them and which was taken by their deer ancestors both ten and hundred years ago, no
matter if the herder wants it or not.
But what if one day their route is blocked by one of Gazprom’s major fields with a railroad and
motorways, an airport, pipelines and other large-scale infrastructure? And that’s exactly what
happened. The Bovanenkovo field is crossed by the routes of two reindeer herding brigades of
the Yarsalinskoye reindeer herding enterprise, that is, No. 4 and No. 8.
Gazprom made every effort not to interfere with the traditional lifestyle of indigenous tundra
inhabitants when commercially developing the Yamal Peninsula.
For this purpose, at the initial stage of the Bovanenkovo infrastructure construction,
Gazprom’s experts and reindeer herders agreed on where the herds and people would cross the
field and set up special crossings at the intersections of communication lines and nomad
Every year before the reindeer start nomadising across the field, a working group consisting of
representatives from the Yamal-Nenets Autonomous Area Administration, the Yamal District, the
Yamal social movement and Gazprom Dobycha Nadym, a subsidiary of Gazprom, check the
availability of crossings.
The working group takes a helicopter to get to the field.
Special means of transportation are required for checking all the crossings and visiting the
camps of reindeer herding brigades. Before pulling off the road the driver lets the air out of
these enormous wheels a bit in order not to harm the herb layer in tundra.
One of the crossings is being checked. Here the sloping sections of the road border are dumped
so that deer with sleds could easily cross it, and a pipe section is slightly raised above the
ground so that neither people nor deer hurt themselves.
The Yamal weather is unpredictable. Yesterday it was sunny and 25 °C above zero, and now it is
only 8 °C. And it is windy. And foggy. Some sections of communication lines can’t be approached
even by an off-road vehicle. We have to go on foot. Rubber boots are welcomed.
The aim of the hike is to examine the quality of the earth fill over the pipeline. It is not
always possible to raise a pipeline above tundra. Sometimes it is more efficient to dump a
sloping fill, fix it with a special net and grass it.
After checking all the crossings of which there are 11, the working group heads to the camp of
reindeer herding brigade No. 4.
This is almost the center of the field. Against the skyline there is gas facility No.2 with the
capacity of 60 billion cubic meters of gas a year.
Nearby runs the busiest motorway in the field and in the whole Yamal Peninsula as well. It
connects the operating gas field facility and the industrial base which comprises the shift
workers’ camp, office buildings, a hotel, a canteen, a boiler house, storages and many other
support facilities. Basically, the traffic here doesn’t stop for a moment.
Reindeer graze in close proximity to the production facilities.
Nyadma Khudi, the brigade leader (leftmost) tells us that the crossing of the busy motorway is
scheduled for this evening. At tea the time of traffic interruption is being agreed on.
The place of crossing is covered with special material, geofabric, in order for the loaded
sleds to slide smoothly and their runners not to break.
There is everything on the sleds: the house, household appliances, food stock, clothes,
Cars start massing up on the blocked motorway. Drivers get out of their cabins. But there is no
swearing, honking and, most importantly, attempting to get closer. It was not at once, but all
the same people learnt to respect the culture and traditions of Yamal’s masters.
Reindeer not harnessed to sleds may run without geofabric. The main obstacle is a slight slope
on the road border. This purely lowland animal is not adapted to passing through highlands.
Right beyond the motorway there is a pipeline additionally raised above the ground.
The herd crossed the motorway in 40 minutes. The traffic resumed. Brigade No.4 has another
motorway to cross today. It is not as loaded, but it will be also shut off just in case.
Further on, with no other obstacles the herd will head north.
The reindeer will go as far as to the Kara Sea where cold wind from the Arctic Ocean saves them
from annoying insects, and the shore is covered with such tasty (in deer terms, of course) sea
salt. The summer will end quickly. In August a return trip will start. The brigade leader plans
to cross the Bovanenkovo in the opposite direction to the south already in the third decade of
http://www.dvn.com/CorpResp/initiatives/Pages/Multi-wellPads.aspx#terms?disclaimer=yes (Multi-well pad)
http://www.naturalgas.org/naturalgas/extraction.asp (location and leasing)
http://geology.com/articles/horizontal-drilling/ (what is?)
http://youtu.be/03hP3ZZaWxU (for pipelines)
http://marcelluscoalition.org/marcellus-shale/production-processes/drilling/ (marcellus shale)
http://www.wvsoro.org/resources/how_a_well_is_drilled/index.html (slide show)
http://ecoflight.org/issues/info/Oil-Gas/ (landscape photos)
http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp//html/story.asp?NewsID=39637&Cr=indigenous&Cr1= (culture UN)
http://pubs.er.usgs.gov/#search:advance/page=1/page_size=100/advance=undefined/page_size=100/query=landscape%20consequences%20of%20natural%20gas%20:0 (landscape USGS)
http://www.blm.gov/pgdata/etc/medialib/blm/wy/information/NEPA/cyfodocs/redpoint3d.Par.17409.File.dat/ea_appendices.pdf (U.S. BLM environmental assessment)
BIODIVERSITY CRISIS, HABITAT LOSS
http://youtu.be/hsq3WsFIVmQ (deforestation animation)
http://youtu.be/Us-NEu0FXew (WWF biodiversity)
http://www.iucn.org/iyb/about/biodiversity_crisis/ (IUCN biodiversity crisis)
http://www.learner.org/courses/envsci/unit/text.php?unit=9&secNum=7 (habitat loss)
http://www.un.org/en/globalissues/environment/ (UN environment)
http://www.epa.gov/mrlc/pdf/forest-factsheet.pdf (EPA forest fragmentation)
http://www.csc.noaa.gov/digitalcoast/data/forestfrag (analysis NOAA.gov)
WHAT IS THE ECOSYSTEM?
http://youtu.be/JZwTZ-d1ZRE (ecology matrix)
http://biodiversity.europa.eu/topics/ecosystems-and-habitats (EU ecosystems, habitats)
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