Recent developments in technology and the extraction process have made unconventional gas exploration and production not only economical, but also safer and more efficient.
Unconventional resources have identical safety requirements as applied for traditional conventional drilling operations, which are covered by extensive regulations. Emissions (e.g. noise, light etc.), safety equipment (e.g. blow out preventer), and environmental protection (e.g. site construction, casing design) are always part of the planning and execution process. Industry continues its efforts to develop and use more environmentally friendly hydraulic fracturing fluids, reduce water consumption and recycle fluids.
When a drilling site is selected, the economic and environmental concerns of the local community are considered. The site management team works closely with community leaders to assess the risks and benefits of the site and align the company's goals with those of the local community. Then, information is gathered regarding all applicable laws, regulations, permits and codes, and environmental impact assessments (EIAs) are conducted to identify and address any potential hazards.
In a typical unconventional gas project, the most intensive activity occurs during drilling, which normally lasts between 8-16 weeks per well (including preparatory work). During this period, trucks drive to and from the site and machinery is used to drill wellbores that extend as far as four kilometers below the surface.
The hydraulic fracturing process typically lasts for 2 – 5 days. Truck traffic can be significant, but once drilling and fracturing are complete, and natural gas is flowing through the wellbore, there is very little, if any, noise at the producing wellhead. The well will remain in this state for the rest of its producing life, normally about 25 - 40 years.
Horizontal drilling has also led to the development of multi-well pad technology, which allows for one drill site to include a number of producing wells that can access reservoirs thousands of meters away. Instead of having single well pads spread throughout the community, multi-well pads can significantly limit the surface footprint of extraction activities.
Industry strive to make natural gas production as safe, responsible and transparent as possible at every stage of the process.