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« Green propaganda can be dangerous | Main | Eastern gas »


Grist is vying with Propublica to be the most disreputable commentator on shale gas, with an article today about the sudden appearance of what they initially called a "fracking rig" in a suburban location in Colorado. As readers in the comments were quick to point out, there is no such thing as a fracking rig - what had appeared was a drilling rig, and the article was quickly corrected:

When my wife and I pulled into a relative’s subdivision in Frederick, Colo., after a wedding on a recent weekend, it was a surprise to suddenly find a 142-foot-tall drill rig in the backyard, parked in the narrow strip of land between there and the next subdivision to the east. It had appeared in the two days we’d been gone.

However, the article is at pains to insinuate that the rig will be illuminated at night for the foreseeable future - nowhere in the article do you learn that the drilling rig is a temporary feature of a shale gas well, one that will disappear just as quickly in a few weeks' time.

By coincidence, a reader posted a link to this video about oil wells in urban Los Angeles (I have a vague feeling I've posted this before but it's worth another look). The impact of an oil well seems to be rather greater than that of a gas well, but you come away with the impression that the extractive industries can live in peaceful coexistence with people and property.

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Reader Comments (24)

Had to re-enabled ad-block today. I'd hoped to avoid it on BH so that some revenue might ensue, but a completely manic ad for "join me" just now made it impossible to concentrate on reading anything.

Can the level of ad (hyper) activity be decided by the blog owner? If not, so it goes...

Aug 30, 2013 at 8:50 AM | Unregistered Commentersteveta_uk

Thanks for posting the vid - well worth watching.

Aug 30, 2013 at 8:51 AM | Unregistered CommenterJack Hughes


Are you the same person who dared to question the credentials of Monckton, the worlds greatest living Englishman, over at WUWT the other day?

Aug 30, 2013 at 9:17 AM | Unregistered CommenterJabba the Cat

Morning all .OT as usual

Richard Curtis is on BBC Breakfast talking about his new film.

So Richard in your latest Rom Com do any innocent school children get blown up for not agreeing with your particular political beliefs and exercising their democractic rights to free speech then.

Aug 30, 2013 at 9:21 AM | Unregistered Commenterjamspid

I posted the link to the vid. I found it while looking for images of an LA street I saw in the mid 70s where every backyard had a nodding donkey oil well. Furthering my point that 'in my backyard' is fine as long as I am making money from it.

Aug 30, 2013 at 9:34 AM | Unregistered CommenterPhilip Bradley

Meanwhile UK imports of gas reached a record high of 1 trillion cu ft in the first half of this year. We need to frack.

Aug 30, 2013 at 10:16 AM | Registered CommenterPhillip Bratby

My local free paper, the Gloucestershire Independent, has a front page article about a bunch of local activists who went to Balcombe to support the protest there. They took with them an anti-fracking placard signed by thirty people from the Stroud valleys (yes they found 30 people to sign it) including Dale Vince the founder of Ecotricity. I'm sure Dale's interest in stopping fracking is purely environmental. Strangely the paper failed to mention the sixty villagers from Balcombe who signed a letter in support of fracking.

Aug 30, 2013 at 10:46 AM | Unregistered CommenterBloke down the pub

I feel this is pertinent.....

Aug 30, 2013 at 11:18 AM | Unregistered Commenterjones

The answer, of course, is to disguise everything as either a wind turbine or a solar PV array...both regarded as things of beauty and to be welcomed anywhere by the eco-loons.

May I have my Nobel prize now , please?

Aug 30, 2013 at 12:10 PM | Unregistered CommenterJack Savage

@Jack Savage.
But why stop there? After all this will add greatly to our energy production and, best of all have the entire track of the HS2 lined with wind turbines. "the next train to Birmingham is delayed by 3 weeks"..

Aug 30, 2013 at 1:13 PM | Unregistered CommenterRC Saumarez

I have visited those wells in urban LA. I've worked on many rig sites within settled areas and even national parks. In almost all cases, the locals are surprised to find out what we are doing there as they were unaware there was drilling going on. The exceptions are where you are on a featureless plain and the rig can be seen for miles.

I remember visiting Wytch Farm in the 90s when they were drilling the longest wells in the world.
These were the Superstars of the drilling world and everyone in the drilling game worldwide knew about them.

Yet, chatting to people in the pubs in Poole, you'd get comments like "What you doing here then?" when you explained that you were involved in drilling.

At the time I was taken aback that they were unaware of the fantastic technical achievements taking place just across the bay and felt that our industry should tell its story a bit better.

Perhaps the moment when we could do that is past now, and the public is too polarised.

You would be dismissed as being "in the pay of Big Oil" - (like the whole UK government and anyone accepting its largesse , when you consider how much taxation revenue they harvest from oil & gas production and consumption)

It's not to say that there can't be disruption caused by drilling - but on the scale of things that people see every day like roadworks , it's relatively minor.

Aug 30, 2013 at 2:13 PM | Registered Commenterkellydown

Jack Savage: Talking of solar farms being things of beauty, a local councillor likened a field of solar panels to a field of lavender. Obviously he was seriously lampooned in the local press. One person sent him pictures of a field of lavender and a field of solar panels and told him that if he couldn't see which was which, perhaps he should go and smell them, one having the smell of perfume and the other having the smell of corruption.

Aug 30, 2013 at 3:03 PM | Registered CommenterPhillip Bratby

In the U.S. at least, the new industrial windmills each have a flashing red light at the top at night. So anyone living near these has a sea of flashing red lights in their night sky ... every night, forever.

Aug 30, 2013 at 4:23 PM | Unregistered CommenterDavid

That video looks to be of a closed petroleum refining plant, not an oil or gas well. Why is it closed? Well, could be lots of reasons, including just being in California.

Just the fact that somebody was wandering around indicates the plant is not refining oil, pumping oil or gas or anything that could suffer from subversive damage. In one of the images, the wanderer passes by an open entrance in one of the metal columns. An indication that the column was closed, vented and perhaps cleaned. What cleaning entails may be sandblasting inner scale off, (something I was once employed to accomplish). The complete lack of upkeep indicates that the processing plant has been closed for years and is unlikely to be reopened without complete overhaul.

Regarding the article and this implied disturbance comment

" was a surprise to suddenly find a 142-foot-tall drill rig in the backyard..."

At a hundred forty plus feet (47 meters), that sounds like a plain drilling rig.

It may be cheapest to run the drill around the clock to minimize shut down/restart delays and so yes, the well could be lit up at night. Subdivisions are rarely 'completely dark at night', even those with 'starlight' saving regulations (no lights exposed upwards to minimize urban night glare). There is often plenty of horizontal and reflected light making a subdivision well lit at night. The drill rig's lights are very temporary in comparison.

What I find curious is how they know it is an 'oil well drill' and not a water well drill? Subdivisions in Colorado get downright thirsty with all of the suburbies adhering to neighborhood subdivision rules. Often these rules determine lawns, lawn care, shrubbery, house exterior upkeep (siding, paint, shingles, asphalt roofs...). Depending on where located, searching for additional sources of water is not unheard of. Not that the owner of the water rights doesn't deserve payment; and subdivisions, malls, shopping centers, golf courses (especially golf courses) drill their own wells for water to cut down costs for watering acres and acres of grass.

A functioning oil well looks more like one of those toy perpetual motion birds dipping to simulate drinking water and then righting themselves. from the dreadful wiki; oil well

And yes, fields of these can be an eyesore, but that is all. No columns of flame, no contaminated soil; just good cheap oil providing oil for use and revenues for all involved with the oil to energy supply.

Aug 30, 2013 at 6:39 PM | Unregistered CommenterATheoK

AtheoK says:

"What I find curious is how they know it is an 'oil well drill' and not a water well drill?"

In my experience most of the water well drilling rigs are truck mounted and their mast is typically no more than 40 feet (12.23 m) tall. Most water well drillers shut down operations during the night-time hours. Oil and gas rigs run 24/7. If the derrick is 140+ feet tall it is an oil/gas rig.

Aug 30, 2013 at 8:27 PM | Unregistered CommenterGilbert K. Arnold

@Gilbert K Arnold

Perhaps it's an oil/gas rig, but the rig height is determined by the power & grunt needed to drill to a predetermined depth, not necessarily the nature of the target (deep holes need longer rods for efficiency, hence higher masts to accomodate longer rod lengths)

What most irritates me about comments like yours is the insouciant ignorance with which they are delivered. If you don't actually know anything, why pontificate ?

Aug 31, 2013 at 8:05 AM | Unregistered Commenterianl8888

A drilling rig, eh..?
Travelling west along the A428 from Cambridge for the first time in a couple of months, I note TWO new wind farms in the first five miles..
Will anyone EVER stop these useless pieces of eco-junk..?

Aug 31, 2013 at 1:28 PM | Unregistered Commentersherlock1

Talking of Grist...have a read of this.

Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins...crazy name, crazy gal!

Aug 31, 2013 at 9:11 PM | Unregistered CommenterJack Savage

The plot thickens. Promised Land is a recent film about Pennsylvania fracking. Its message is anti- fracking.

It is partly funded by Abu Dhabi, that large scale exporter of liquified gas. Now why would a Middle East fossil fuel exporter be funding an anti-fracking film? :-)

Russia's Gazprom are making anti-fracking noises too, probably because they are not keen to see competition in the gas market either.

Sep 1, 2013 at 12:32 AM | Unregistered CommenterEntropic Man

Safe gas?

Sep 1, 2013 at 1:35 AM | Unregistered CommenterEntropic Man

inal88888 says:

"What most irritates me about comments like yours is the insouciant ignorance with which they are delivered. If you don't actually know anything, why pontificate ?"

Talk about cheek!... If you have noticed any of my previous posts about fraccing, you would know that I work in the oil/gas exploration business. I know whereof I speak. I have seen and worked on drilling rigs with only a 40ft mast that can and did drill to over 9000' (2750 m). Typically drill rod is a little less than 10m long (approx 31.5'). To make a "stand" you have either 1 drill rod, 2 drill rods, 3 drill rods and in rare cases 4(!) drill rods. These are referred to in the industry as: a single, a double, a triple or a 4-ple. There are also rigs which are called "super singles" which have a 42.5'-45' drill rod. And by the way, I have also worked on water well drilling rigs and they typically have a 20-22' drill rod.

Sep 1, 2013 at 4:17 PM | Unregistered CommenterGilbert K. Arnold

We're drilling with "rods" now? I'm just an ignorant driller but we drilled with a drills string consisting of drill pipe + BHA. "Rods" usually refers to the sucker rods on "nodding donkeys" I think.

The main reason you could assume that a smaller rig was probably a water rig is that potable water is usually much shallower. There are big rigs drilling for hot aquifers in the geothermal business but by and large, a "big rig" doesn't come cheap and is more likely to be after hydrocarbons.

Sep 2, 2013 at 11:13 AM | Unregistered Commenterkellydown

@ kellydown;

You are correct: it is drill "pipe" but I have also heard a single piece of pipe referred to as a "rod" or a "joint". You are also correct in that a "big rig" does not come cheap. Typical daily cost to drill any size well with one of these is somewhat north of $15K/day. And that's just for the rig. Then you have the cost of the mud, the directional drillers (if needed), the mud loggers and any other 3rd party vendors. It adds up in a hurry.

Sep 2, 2013 at 12:41 PM | Unregistered CommenterGilbert K. Arnold

I only know US lingo. Rods are more typically water well lingo. The string is everything, including the drill pipe, collars, the monel, stabilizers, reamers and bit. A single length of drill pipe is a joint. College boys like to work on big rigs because joints are 30-feet long, dope comes in 5-gallon buckets and there is a pusher on every rig.

The rig in the article looks like a triple diesel-electric rig. Wouldn't want that thing in my neighborhood for a few weeks: the draw-works brake screams while turning to the right.

Sep 2, 2013 at 9:56 PM | Unregistered CommenterHoward

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