Over the past few years, the Rocky Mountain region has experienced explosive growth in drilling, especially in the number of natural gas wells. Benefiting from increases in gas price and new technologies, operators have embarked on a wave of development of gas resources that is breathtaking in magnitude, comprising increases of thousands of wells. While the region has previously experienced booms in drilling, this one has a different character. Natural gas resources are being developed at an unprecedented density, with wells spaced every 20, 10 or even 5 acres. Gas fields now consisting of 64 or even 128 wells per mile are being developed, rather than the one or two wells per square mile which previously characterized such fields. With each well site typically comprising 2 to 4 acres, such drilling densities leave little area of a gas field untouched by development. Since such fields can be comprised of hundreds, or even thousands of wells, and there are many such fields, extensive areas of the West are being affected. This increase in drilling and order of magnitude increase in density is resulting in impacts to the surface that were until recently unforeseen.
The application of one technology, directional drilling, can significantly mitigate these impacts. Long established in the drilling industry, this method has widespread applications in the fields currently under development. By allowing the concentration of many wells in a single pad, directional drilling can greatly decrease the density of drilling on the surface, thereby dramatically reducing the environmental impacts of gas developments.
Author: Ken Kreckel