Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Oil and gas companies are super-sizing their well pads

22-well pad site under development in Amwell Township in December, 2017.  Photo: Haley Nelson/Post-Gazette











Anya Litvak reports for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
:


Dave Elkin remembers in the earlier days of the Marcellus when EQT drilled three wells from a single well pad and it was considered a technological marvel.

“The greatest thing since sliced bread,” Mr. Elkin, a senior vice president of asset optimization at EQT Corp., thought at the time.

It was a quaint memory that contrasts sharply with the company’s and industry’s new normal: superpads — concrete platforms that can house 30 wells, maybe even 40, with long horizontal tentacles stretching underground for up to 4 miles in each direction.

A superpad means a quarter of a billion dollars pumped into a single hillside in a place like rural Washington County. It means fewer well pads in total but much more activity on those that exist. It means that from a 10-acre spot, a company like EQT can theoretically slurp natural gas from underneath an area nearly the size of the City of Pittsburgh.

“I call them mini-industrial complexes,” said David Schlosser, president of exploration and production at EQT.

Downtown-based EQT — now the largest producer of natural gas in the U.S. — is leading the Marcellus pack in supersizing its well pads, with about a dozen sites permitted to hold 20 or more wells.

There’s the Big Sky pad in Nottingham, Washington County, with 26 permitted wells. The Strope pad in Franklin Township, Greene County, with 28. The Prentice pad in Forward Township has 37 wells permitted on it.

They may not all materialize, Mr. Schlosser cautioned; the company often gets permits for more wells than it will eventually drill to keep its options open.

The Cogar pad in Amwell Township is a case in point. It was permitted to hold 30 wells, but to date only 22 have been drilled, and EQT says it is stopping there. The pad itself is on a hill and it’s difficult to see all the machinery on the concrete slab from the winding country roads that encircle it.

Yet everything around it hints at the operation. Pipeline ditches, trucks, lights, road signs intended to guide the trucks away from vulnerable roads — all are preludes to the industry on the hill.

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