A Gas Drilling Glossary

posted on Saturday, May 22nd, 2010
Thumper Trucks Photo by Ron Schott, www.flickr.com/photos/rschott/

Writen by residents of Susquehanna County, with some excerpts from Wikipedia and Un-NaturalGas.org

There is a lot of vocabulary that comes into play with natural gas drilling. Here is a short list of terms that get thrown around gas-land.

Flowback:

Hydro-fracturing fluids or brine that contains water mixed with other formula ingredients, it also mixes with metals, minerals and elements under the earth’s surface. It then flows back to the surface of the pad after a well has been stimulated or fractured. Flowback is a form of “produced water” or residual waste.

“Free water”:

What bloggers and commenters on websites and newspapers claim Dimock residents receive. Arrives on a truck, usually inside a water buffalo, which is usually a grimy plastic tank of some sort. Also includes some drinking water in gallon jugs and water bottles, which come from the Endless Mountains Water Company, in nearby Tunkhannock. The company is downstream from Dimock and its endless aquifer contamination and industry spillage. This water is provided for some people free of charge because their water wells have been contaminated due to gas well drilling activities nearby. (Note that 3 years ago these wells were an endless source of high quality drinking water.) Free water is provided because people are unable to drink their own water and their home plumbing is at risk because wells, homes, hot water heaters, washers and dishwashers can explode if our methane levels get too high.

Hydraulic Fracturing:

As used for natural gas extraction, is the process by which water, frequently mixed with proppants and chemicals, is forced down a drilled well bore at extremely high pressure, in order to create or expand fractures to release gas from the rock formation in which it is trapped. With the creation or restoration of fractures, the surface area of the formation exposed to the borehole is increased and the fracture provides a conductive path connecting the now-freed gas to the well. The process is also known as fracking, hydrofracking, or any other variation.

Incident:

A fuck-up. Gas companies and their workers, the DEP, and news reporters all have very delicate sensibilities and cannot bring themselves to call a spade a spade, either that or they habitually misspell the word accident.

Leak:

Another term for explosion. I was told that a loud explosion noise that reverberated through the valley and shook our house was not an explosion, but a “powerful leak.” Another “explosion” that propelled a gas worker 30 feet into the air was deemed “not an explosion, but a brief but forceful uplift in tubing.”

Natural gas:

A gaseous fossil fuel consisting primarily of methane but including significant quantities of ethane, propane, butane, and pentane—heavier hydrocarbons removed prior to use as a consumer fuel —as well as carbon dioxide, nitrogen, helium and hydrogen sulfide.

Proppants:

Small particles such as sand or synthetic beads that hold open the newly-created fractures so that released gas can flow towards the well.

Spaghetti:

An intricate web of extension cord like wires that join seismic detectors to their power source, their interpretive equipment, and trees and shrubs on property owners land. The cords take on a tangled appearance, thus the name spaghetti. Property owners have found that the more irritating they are to the company, the more random the wire tangles, and the longer they will stay draped all over the roadside edge of their property.

Thumper Trucks:

White or yellow, lengthy pieces of heavy equipment, that rattle the roads as they move down them at a snail-like pace. They are shaped vaguely like garbage trucks, but with more air space between their moving parts, and they have lots of sections that at first appear to be separate pieces of equipment. Precise instruments on the trucks record seismic data from beneath the earth, as the trucks and explosive charges stimulate mini earthquakes on property owners land. Nerve-wracking vibrations penetrate homes and deep into the earth. In the process, these sensitive instruments can detect natural gas and crude oil pooled miles down beneath your property. Some shifting may occur. Enough to stop a spring or cause shale, soil or anything else trickle down into your well or aquifer.

Water Buffalo:

A hairless five hundred and fifty gallon plastic tank filled with lake water or whatever else is free and readily available, or is already accounted for with a consumptive water use permit. The tank contains non-potable water, dirt, rocks, leaves and chlorine. It burns skin and causes rashes. Dogs won’t drink it. The water freezes easily in PA outdoor winter weather. Though it can be brought inside, tanks are often oddly shaped, like a circus tent or propane tank. The tank takes up a lot of room and can’t be used as a surface on which to place other object, because top is typically rounded or slanted. Usually tanks are also discolored, dented, dirty, or leaky, with sediment at bottom.