If you look out my back door and across the field, you’ll find a sight that doesn’t fit in the with the rest of my very natural environment. I’m not entirely sure that allowing all this was the best idea, but what I am sure of is that there’s no going back now.
This is a drilling rig set up by one of the companies that have moved into the area since it became profitable to search for natural gas here. These giants dot the landscape and the world is a very different place for me than it was just three years ago. They’re finding their liquid gold wherever they set one these up, so if you can believe it, there’s another one less than 1000ft. to the north. But that one’s not mine. It’s just on the other side of the section line. This one’s mine.
I took this picture in the evening so you could see all the cool lights on it. And by cool, I mean totally blinding airplane lights that wash out the entire eastern horizon. You can see a bunch of pipes hanging vertically to the left of the main tower. Those get pushed one at a time into the earth being led by a drill bit about the size of a basketball. Using some sort of arcane mixture of technology and wizardry, the bit is directed in a horizontal fashion to head toward a target location up to a mile away from here at a depth of 12,000 feet. It’s really loud and runs 24/7. I just feel sorry for the guy who stands on top of that platform the pipes are attached to guide them into position through his entire shift — even when it sleeted then hit 12F with snow falling all night long during that storm a few weeks back!
This picture is quite dated now, though, with the company satisfied they’ve drilled all they can and pulling up shop last week. They had a bunch of problems (broke a bit, had a section of the line collapse on them, hit some unexpectedly solid rock…) and ended up several weeks behind their schedule. But now that they’re gone I can look at the full extent of the damage.
While they were here the people in charge of the site were very reluctant to let me drive around it, even though it’s my land. And by reluctant, I mean they would send a very large, scary-looking guy in sunglasses that pressed hard against his face and a mustache that stretched to his chin to inform me that I needed to move on. The large trucks that hauled the equipment in and then out again caused more than considerable damage to the road and the yards and trees that line it. When the big rig started drilling, almost immediately my neighbor to the east lost all his water. They pushed through his water well. They’ve promised to make good on getting him another water source (by hooking him up to the commercial water line, I expect), but I don’t know if they’ve delivered yet.
In the end, I’m hoping for what everyone else in the area is hoping: that it’s all worth it. That permanently altering the landscape and the environment of a place I love will put my children through college. That allowing someone else to make a spot of land completely unusable for many decades to come while still having to pay annual taxes for it isn’t totally insane. (Sounds like ‘owning’ a piece of land that the county holds as a right-of-way, huh? You have no say about what happens to it, yet you pay taxes on it anyway!) That giving a company a set of keys to my property and letting them drive their trucks on it for the rest of my life doesn’t destroy what little sense of privacy I enjoy.
I complain a lot, perhaps too much one might say, but I live here, all the way out here, on a spot of land owned by my grandfather dozens of miles from any of my friends or conveniences because of the natural beauty of the place and for the peace and quiet my family shares. When my children graduate from high school in another six or seven years, I hope it was all worth it. I guess that’s all anyone can hope for.
So what happens now? Well,they still have to frac it. (And no, that’s not a misspelling of that cool BSG word that sci-fi insists on integrating into our vernacular! It’s a process of fracturing the rock layers deep below so the natural gas has a pathway to the line.) Then they have to burn off the residuals (which will mean I’ll see a flame 60 feet high on the landscape for a while). Then they cap it and set up all the hardware. I got a call from the gas company soon after the drilling rig left to discuss running a pipeline to an as-yet-undetermined main line. Then finally maybe the gas from my well will hit the market in about a year. Then I’ll be torn between wanting low fuel prices for the good of the economy and wanting high gas prices so I make more money. At least, until I get my first check. Then I’ll know whether this was a good decision or not.
[This post wasn’t to brag or to whine. This is just what’s been going on in my life for the past few months. I’ve waited until the whole thing was down and gone before saying anything about it. I really do think it will be all to my favor in the years to come, but to what extent is very uncertain.]