Preparing for drilling (4 to 8 weeks): This phase involves securing a drilling rig, conducting final tests and environmental analyses, and securing all permits to ensure drilling is done in accordance with regulations. This is also the time we use to implement our own safety and operational plans on top of those required by the government – such as planning for proper management of the project, ensuring plans incorporate responsible practices, and reviewing procedures with employees and contractors.
Rig work (4 to 5 weeks): This involves constructing the drilling rig and drilling the well. As professionals drill the well, they install a series of protective steel-and-cement layers that maintain the integrity of the well and protect the surrounding formations. In the upper part of the well, multiple layers of cement and steel casing are installed to create an impermeable barrier between the well and groundwater zones. Drillers also use casing deeper in the well to ensure its integrity and to isolate natural gas formations from the surrounding areas. Engineers and technicians test and monitor each layer of casing and cement to ensure the integrity of the well and the quality of the protective casings.
Hydraulic fracturing (2 to 5 days): Hydraulic fracturing is a technique used relatively briefly during the well completion process. It often takes place a mile or more below groundwater supplies. Shale rock has gas trapped in pores smaller than the width of a hair, so we must create a network of small fissures in the rock to release the gas. This involves injecting a mixture of 90 percent water, 9.5 percent sand, and 0.5 percent chemicals (that in part prevent bacterial growth and reduce friction) into the well at high pressures to keep the fissures open, which allows the gas to flow. Again, the activity is continuously monitored. Experts monitor data such as injection pressure and flow rates during the process to ensure that everything is going according to plan.
Producing natural gas (25 to 40 years): Once a well is drilled and completed over the course of a few months, it is ready for production. Everything is dismantled except for a four-to-six-foot well-head and the local processing facilities that connect to gas lines that eventually run to the national distribution network. A natural gas well can produce gas for up to four decades, and all the while it’s monitored to ensure continual well integrity.
Over the past 60 years, more than 1 million wells have used hydraulic fracturing to safely
and effectively drill for natural gas. This process is helping America unlock our vast
supplies of domestic energy.
Natural gas is a clean, affordable and efficient energy source that
can heat our homes, fuel our stoves and power transportation. Our
economy is benefiting from the growing global demand for this valuable