Saturday, August 9, 2008

What You Can Meet on the Way to Work

The other day I posted the kind of things I usually see on the way to work--turkeys, flowers, deer...

A convoy of ten trucks passed as we waited on the side of the road last week. Our road is one lane--there's no passing these guys.

But this is something we see more and more often on our narrow country road--drilling trucks for gas wells. Right now there are at least two wells in progress. The noise has to be heard to be understood.

These trucks are the ones that come to "frac" (fracture) a well. They blow nitro (I'm not sure what that exactly is) into the drilled hole, and the force fractures the rock far below the surface, allowing the gas to pool into the well--I think that's how it works anyway. The noise is like a high-pressured balloon losing air, loud and prolonged, sometimes lasting several hours. Dust flies, too, something I had not realized until the well about a half mile away was frac'ed this weekend. The dust blew across our land for several hours--probably a combination of steam and dust, actually.

View of the steam/dust from the well on Bucket run

Tonight as Larry and I sat outside enjoying the fire pit and the Little Dipper hanging over our house, another well, several miles away, was being frac'ed--or maybe it was some other process. Every now and then we'd hear a noise like the air brakes being let off a giant truck. A surprising sound out here in the middle of nowhere.

There have been many well drilled along this ridge in the past two years--I'd guess there are at least twenty. These are natural gas wells. Where does the gas go? I don't know, but it's a safe bet that it's out of state.

Who gets the money? If the landowner owns the mineral rights, they get 1/8 of production usually. We own 50% so we get 1/16th. That means that if the well produces $14,000 worth of gas, we might get $900 after the costs that are deducted before we're paid. The landowner might also get free gas for household use.

If the landowner does not own the mineral rights, they get nothing except one "surface disturbance" payment, and perhaps right-of-way damages. They might get a gas tap but have to pay for the gas produced on their land.

However, everyone in the area has to deal with the noise, the big trucks, the damage to the roads, and the runoff into the streams because of inadequate erosion control. Eventually the drilling in this area will be finished (because there are regulations that control how close wells can be drilled to each other). The big trucks will leave, the erosion will slowly end. The road will probably never be fully repaired and we'll always have to deal with the additional traffic of the well tenders on our roads and on our property.

America will have more natural gas, and the lucky landowners will have a little more cash. I wonder though, if it's worth the damage and the change to our environment? I vote no. Even the royalty check and free gas don't make up for the damage to the land (most wells are drilled on prime locations for building, on meadows and good pastureland, or in woodlands that could have had marketable timber).

And nothing can make up for the noise that disturbed an otherwise lovely country evening tonight.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

A co worker that owns a large SUV and a full sized pickup was complaining about the fact that they were not drilling the ANWR. He was also complaining about overcrowded roads... I did not bother to explain.


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