Hello,

We noticed you're browsing in private or incognito mode.

To continue reading this article, please exit incognito mode or log in.

Not an Insider? Subscribe now for unlimited access to online articles.

Sustainable Energy

Drilling for Shale Gas

Arkansas’s Fayetteville Shale is among the rich deposits of natural gas that are now accessible using advanced drilling and hydrofracturing technologies.

After drilling a well, a worker prepares the rig to be moved to another site.
The drill bit above, made of tungsten carbide and synthetic diamonds, was designed for the shale.
This story is part of our January/February 2013 Issue
See the rest of the issue
Subscribe
Right, in the yard adjacent to the well is the apparatus needed to support the complex drilling operations, including the electric equipment that powers the rig. Left, pipes head out from multiple wells to a compressor, where the gas will be pressurized and sent to transmission pipelines.
In an enclosed cabin on the drilling platform, Waylon Boad can monitor the drilling, using information from a deck of advanced gauges and video screens.
A short distance from where rig #26 is finishing up, a drilled well is being hydrofractured. Gene Yates supervises the procedure, in which water at up to 8,000 pounds per square inch is pumped into the well and out through holes in the horizontal pipe, “fracturing” the shale and allowing gas trapped in it to flow into the pipe.
Fresh water for fracking is pumped to the site and treated by means of an ozone-based process to destroy bacteria.
In a trailer next to the wells, workers monitor the fracking, keeping a close eye on the pressure.
Sand is used as a “proppant” to keep the microfractures in the shale open.
Left, the three blue wells are surrounded by white trucks at the fracking site; water from the trucks is pumped down the wells. Right, after a well is fracked, it’s ready for production.
The gas is piped to condensers, where water is removed before the gas moves to pipelines.
An artificial pond supplies water needed for fracking yet more wells.
Despite the glut of cheap natural gas in the United States, business is booming for Southwestern. Million-dollar fracking trucks in its brand-new fleet await assignments.

Tech Obsessive?
Become an Insider to get the story behind the story — and before anyone else.

Subscribe today
After drilling a well, a worker prepares the rig to be moved to another site.
Right, in the yard adjacent to the well is the apparatus needed to support the complex drilling operations, including the electric equipment that powers the rig. Left, pipes head out from multiple wells to a compressor, where the gas will be pressurized and sent to transmission pipelines.
Right, in the yard adjacent to the well is the apparatus needed to support the complex drilling operations, including the electric equipment that powers the rig. Left, pipes head out from multiple wells to a compressor, where the gas will be pressurized and sent to transmission pipelines.
In an enclosed cabin on the drilling platform, Waylon Boad can monitor the drilling, using information from a deck of advanced gauges and video screens.
A short distance from where rig #26 is finishing up, a drilled well is being hydrofractured. Gene Yates supervises the procedure, in which water at up to 8,000 pounds per square inch is pumped into the well and out through holes in the horizontal pipe, “fracturing” the shale and allowing gas trapped in it to flow into the pipe.
Fresh water for fracking is pumped to the site and treated by means of an ozone-based process to destroy bacteria.
In a trailer next to the wells, workers monitor the fracking, keeping a close eye on the pressure.
Sand is used as a “proppant” to keep the microfractures in the shale open.
Left, the three blue wells are surrounded by white trucks at the fracking site; water from the trucks is pumped down the wells. Right, after a well is fracked, it’s ready for production.
Left, the three blue wells are surrounded by white trucks at the fracking site; water from the trucks is pumped down the wells. Right, after a well is fracked, it’s ready for production.
The gas is piped to condensers, where water is removed before the gas moves to pipelines.
An artificial pond supplies water needed for fracking yet more wells.
Despite the glut of cheap natural gas in the United States, business is booming for Southwestern. Million-dollar fracking trucks in its brand-new fleet await assignments.

Uh oh–you've read all of your free articles for this month.

Insider Premium
$179.95/yr US PRICE

More from Sustainable Energy

Can we sustainably provide food, water, and energy to a growing population during a climate crisis?

Want more award-winning journalism? Subscribe and become an Insider.
  • Insider Plus {! insider.prices.plus !}* Best Value

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Everything included in Insider Basic, plus the digital magazine, extensive archive, ad-free web experience, and discounts to partner offerings and MIT Technology Review events.

    See details+

    What's Included

    Unlimited 24/7 access to MIT Technology Review’s website

    The Download: our daily newsletter of what's important in technology and innovation

    Bimonthly print magazine (6 issues per year)

    Bimonthly digital/PDF edition

    Access to the magazine PDF archive—thousands of articles going back to 1899 at your fingertips

    Special interest publications

    Discount to MIT Technology Review events

    Special discounts to select partner offerings

    Ad-free web experience

  • Insider Basic {! insider.prices.basic !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Six issues of our award winning print magazine, unlimited online access plus The Download with the top tech stories delivered daily to your inbox.

    See details+

    What's Included

    Unlimited 24/7 access to MIT Technology Review’s website

    The Download: our daily newsletter of what's important in technology and innovation

    Bimonthly print magazine (6 issues per year)

  • Insider Online Only {! insider.prices.online !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Unlimited online access including articles and video, plus The Download with the top tech stories delivered daily to your inbox.

    See details+

    What's Included

    Unlimited 24/7 access to MIT Technology Review’s website

    The Download: our daily newsletter of what's important in technology and innovation

/
You've read all of your free articles this month. This is your last free article this month. You've read of free articles this month. or  for unlimited online access.