Frack to the future

Let’s imagine, purely for talking’s sake, that the UK does indeed birth a burgeoning fracking industry.  What exactly would that mean, and how would it pan out for us?  Well, I’m a sci-fi writer as well as an occasional blogger, so let’s use our imaginations to take a glimpse into the future, shall we?

I’d suppose there would be a few questions that begged for answers, but one of the most popular would probably be ‘would it be near me?’

Bearing in mind that in the UK you’d be hard pushed to be further than a 60 minute drive from the coast, clearly demonstrating how little space we have on our islands, the answer would most definitely be to the affirmative.  So yes, fracking would occur near you.

I’d imagine a question that would quickly follow would be, ‘How close?’

The answer to that is both complex and simple in equal measure.  Let’s start with Scotland and Wales.  Most of the terrain in both countries are rugged, inaccessible, mountainous, and have poor infrastructure away from the large towns and cities.  Drilling through mountains to reach shale rock is, put simply, an added cost that no oil company would want to accept unless there were no other options or a very big payday under the mountain.  So, if you stay in mountainous areas, fracking won’t be much of an issue I’d warrant.

But that brings a conundrum, doesn’t it?

Almost every lowland area in the UK is inhabited by a reckless species of bi-pedal mammals that sets up camp, builds sprawling warrens and towering structures, and leaves piles of rubbish lying around.  That species, obviously, is us.  So on that note, the likelihood of fracking happening  near your low-lying village, town, or city is much greater than the likelihood of it happening way out in the British wilderness.

So anyway, now we’ve ascertained that well sites will be set up near towns and cities in low-lying areas with an abundance of oil and gas, we’ll move on to what you should come to expect should onshore fracking take the mantle of tomorrow’s energy, shall we?  And by that I mean… what would you see?

Initially, during the exploration drilling phase, one should expect to see mobile drilling rigs being trucked into position at the point where the drilling is to take place.  Quickly following that, the rig would be erected vertically, mud pits would be dug out by lumbering JCB’s to create a storage area for heavy mud to balance the upwards pressure from the oil and gas zones, and a temporary container village to house workers, offices, and tools would rapidly follow.

If, say, twelve wells were to be drilled and completed, taking perhaps six weeks per well, then eighteen months could be a fair estimate whereby a 120ft drilling rig complete with traffic and 24 hour clanking and clattering of drill-pipe and tubing would take place.

Then, after completion, or more likely alongside the drilling of each well, the fracking phase could begin depending upon whether it is done through the tubing or against the bare rock thousands of feet underground.

Now, this blogger is staying away from the earth tremors scenario, purely because there are thousands of websites out there for and against fracking being a contributing factor, but visually, the fracking phase gets a bit messy.  Like this…


So, after the drilling, completion, and fracking phases, what is next?

Production of course.  Either pipelines will be constructed to take the precious hydrocarbons away, or trucks will come to get it.  Periodically, during the production life cycle, well stimulation and intervention will be required.  On land, that means cranes, containers, or perhaps even work-over rigs trundling back through town.

Flares will burn off sporadically, perhaps even perpetually in some cases, and their billowing carbon smoke will curl majestically or nightmarishly (depending upon your tastes) with the prevailing wind.

Then, ultimately, comes abandonment.  The way in which it is done will no doubt hedge on whether the cheapest option is acceptable to the authorities that decide upon such matters.  Nevertheless, the trucks’ll be back, and in numbers.

And from there?  Well… there’s always more shale rock up the road to crack guv’nor.

Enjoyed this blog?  Managed to get this far without dozing off and spilling your tea all over the cat?  Perhaps you’d enjoy one of the writer’s books too:

shrunken     Ceresian: Something lurks

shrunken-dttd     Drilling through the dream: an oilfield tale


Other blogs from Offshore Insider:

Drilling through the dream: an oilfield tale

UK “Fracking” to begin… on the fly.


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