Natural Gas Revolution Part III – The Drilling and Fracking Scene

By The Banker | Blog Posts
8 Nov 2012
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If you’re a boy, and you like big powerful tools, you might like the next part of our tour.

Early on in our tour of the drilling pad, we entered the air-conditioned trailer where the head driller directs the drill bit.  For the uninitiated viewer (for example, me), the seat of power is not unlike Han Solo’s seat in the Millennium Falcon.  Large, flat-screen monitors with custom drilling software ergonomically surround the drill master’s elevated LA-Z-Boy-style throne with smooth swivel capabilities.  A joystick and keyboard accompany the cushioned seat which also faces a wind-shield view of the outdoor drill rig.

The State Rep and I each insist on mounting the throne, if only for a few moments, to feel the power of the master driller.[1]  Drilling teams, we learn, work 24 hours a day in 12-hour rotating shifts until the work is complete.

The fracking site which we visited after lunch had a whole different look to it.

Unlike the drilling site, dominated by a tall metal and plastic rig for punching a hole in the ground, giant green sand storage tanks and tubing dominate the fracking site.

Two dozen green urns elevated on stilts hold about 500 of tons of sand each – literally trainloads full brought from quarries in Wisconsin or Minnesota.

[A buddy of mine, not on site with me at this time, is in the frack-sand provision business, shipping those trainloads of sand from the North into South Texas.  I interviewed him here and here.]

Conveyer belts stretch from the colon of the urns to an unseen area.  Twelve-inch wide jointed metal tubes run from there to entrance points near the well head.  These overgrown green aliens arrived from the Planet Arachnid, and now are poised, abdomen down, to blast their chemicals deep into the ground.[2]

At our feet we examine blasting tubes manufactured in Fort Worth, TX specifically to provide explosive charges to break open the rock.  All of this equipment allows the operators to force a slurry of water, sand, guar, and chemicals deep into the earth at extraordinary pressure – enough to smash open dense rock formations and then keep them open for the oil and gas to flow.

The engineering and custom-manufacturing of the outdoor structures, and the custom software and computing power indoors, reinforced our strong impression of the massive scale of investment in Eagle Ford.  Some of the workers may look rough, but the equipment is brand new and highly specialized.

See Also:Part I – Mad Max Bizarro World

And Part II – Big, Corporate, Well Capitalized

Part IV – How Big is the Natural Gas Revolution?

Part V – The Labor Market in the Eagle Ford

 


[1] I don’t know about my State Rep friend, but I know for me, sitting up there, I wanted to blast a hole two miles deep into the fucking earth, while simultaneously laser-rocketing Tie Fighters with pinpoint accuracy.

[2] I would have accused the Wachowskis of copying these shapes for those Nebuchadnezzar search-and-destroy insects, but The Matrix came out before fracking really took off.

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