Breaking Energy recently toured Anadarko Petroleum Company’s natural gas drilling, completion and production operations in the heart of the Marcellus Shale in Central Pennsylvania. The tour was organized by the American Petroleum Institute.
Over the past few years, unconventional natural gas production surprised many industry observers and surpassed many expectations, significantly altering communities where the resources are located. The Marcellus Shale stretches from New York to West Virginia and into the eastern portion of Ohio. Shale is a tight sedimentary rock with low natural porosity and permeability, which must be fractured – or fracked – in order for the natural gas to flow into the production wells.


A sample of Marcellus Shale.

The Marcellus Shale is approximately 200 to 300 feet thick in this region and located about 7,000 to 8,000 feet below the ground. Operators drill vertically until approaching the shale, then turn the drill bit horizontally so the well extends through thousands of feet of gas-bearing shale. Explosives sent down the well punch holes in the pipe and create cracks in the rock that are then propped open with sand or other materials like ceramics.
Natural gas development is conducted in 3 phases: drilling, completion/fracking, and production. The following slides depict these activities as observed during the recent media tour.


A model showing how various production well casings are sealed with cement. The cement ensures gas, oil and produced water do not escape from the well bore.



Trucks supporting an Anadarko natural gas well drilling operation on private land in central Pennsylvania. The road will be removed or amended as per the landowner’s specifications once the wells are drilled and completed.


Drilling rig 533, owned by Precision Drilling, the contractor Anadarko uses to drill its wells in this area. Anadarko is drilling 8 wells at this location. The wells extend vertically 8,000 feet and laterally 7,000 feet through the gas-bearing Marcellus Shale or “pay zone.”


Anadarko representatives briefing journalists at a hydraulic fracturing pad site located in Cogan House Township, Lycoming County Pennsylvania, where 5 wells are currently being fracked.


View of the area surrounding hydraulic fracturing pad operations.


Associated infrastructure and pipeline supplying water to the operation from a freshwater impoundment located a few hundred yards from the hydraulic fracturing pad.


An Anadarko Completion Engineer providing a visual explanation of the onsite activities with a drawing on the side of his truck.


View of a “frack stack,” or temporary wellhead used during the fracking stage of well completion. The various hoses supply sand, water and chemicals at high volume and pressure – 90 barrels per minute at 9,000 pounds per square inch. The fracking operations are exclusively contracted out to Canadian company Trican Well Service.


View of a “perf gun” that is loaded with explosives called shape charges and sent down the well to breach the casing. Depending on the exact shape and size of the charge, they may create a “perforation” tunnel into the reservoir itself; in some cases up to 30”. When stimulating a well by creating a hydraulic fracture, the rock fails and fractures as a result of the high pressure from the fracturing fluid. That pressure is conveyed by the fluid to the reservoir through the perforations created in the casing.



A sand truck supplying the well completion activity. Approximately 400,000 pounds of sand are used per frack stage and each well is fracked in about 10 stages. Trican supplies the sand.


View of the 5 wells being fracked at a hydraulic fracturing pad.


View of several production wells located roughly half a mile from a hydraulic fracturing pad. Each well costs $6 million to $7 million to drill, complete and bring onstream.