Natural Gas Drilling a Retrospect Thesis

Excerpt from Thesis :

7. Wells on Indian Reservations

Wells to drilling natural gas are often found on Indian reservations as the respective lands are rich in resources. Historically, debates have emerged based on the undervaluation of the gas extracted, which led to the inhabitants of the region being only limitedly remunerated for the usage of the land and the extraction of the natural gas. The matter has been addressed throughout the years (judiciary trials have even been filed) and the situation is more balanced in the present. Consequently, today, several Indian reservations base much of their economic development on operations of natural gas extraction. The most relevant example in this sense is given by the Blackfeet Indian Reservation, which generates income from leasing lands for gas extraction.

The large majority of the drilling operations were centered in the western part of the reservation, but an agreement signed in January 2009 allows the new processors of natural gas to expand their operations to the eastern side as well. Despite the generalized tendency on a national level to reduce the volumes of drilled gas, the tribe in the Blackfeet Indian Reservation has registered increases in their activities. The new lease was signed between the representatives of the tribe and the Bureau of Indian Affairs and it has a period of five years, during which drillings are to occur on 200,000 acres. The contract will bring the tribe more money and a higher commission that any other previous contracts had brought (Newhouse, 2009).

8. Socio-Economic Conditions in Drilling Regions

It is rather difficult to make a generalized assessment of the social and economic context in the regions rich in reserves of natural gas, mostly since a clear pattern cannot be observed. In support of this statement, one should simply look at the two regions so far presented -- Dimock and the Blackfeel Indian Reservation. Historically, both zones were relatively poor, with high unemployment rates. The Indian tribes were however better able to benefit from the rich land and negotiated better contracts with the extractors. Despite the fact that they were initially underpaid for leasing the land, in time, the situation became more balanced and the economy in the Indian reservation is now primarily based on the income generated from drilling operations.

Starting from a similar standpoint, the people in the Dimock were sadly less fortunate. The social and economic conditions in the region have degenerated throughout the past years and after the closing of the mines, the town's economy suffered a great downfall; they were encountering severe economic challenges even before the commencement of the economic recession, meaning that its effects are more severe in the Pennsylvanian town that in other U.S. regions. In a nutshell then, the socio-economic context of each drilling zone depends directly on the ability of the people to benefit from the land's natural resource, negotiate with extractors, but also on their possessing of other means of economic development. The heavily coal mining town is probably now facing more severe challenges as they overlooked the potential benefits of drilling, when they were focused on achieving sustainable economic growth through mining operations.

9. Success over the Years

The academia and practitioners fail to offer a clear answer to the question regarding the future success of the drilling operations. While some argue that the scarcity of the natural resources will put an end to the operations, others state this argument to be based on the conspiracy theory, and that the resources are in fact sufficient. Then, another set of conflicting arguments sees that the it industry, in collaboration with specialized environmentalists, will come up with alternative sources of energy, which will no longer require the drilling of natural gas. Others however state that, even if this is theoretically possible, it is extremely difficult to achieve and the endeavor will not be completed in the next years. Ultimately then, the answer depends on the personal perceptions of each individual. I, for one, hope in the development of alternative sources of energy and economies to natural resources, but fear that the technologies and the education of the population might come too late.

10. National Gas Drilling Technology and Oil Drilling Technology

Throughout the past years, significant advancements have been made in both natural gas and oil drilling technologies, allowing as such for more efficient operations, with less damaging effects upon the environment. Basically, the two operations use the same technologies in extracting both oil as well as natural gas. The extraction operations are conducted in both scenarios through rotary, horizontal or vertical drilling. Newer technologies include extended reach, multilateral drilling and complex path drilling. The multilateral approach is used when gas and oil are found in numerous underground locations and a pipeline network is built to extract the resources from multiple locations and direct them all in the same drilling rig. Extended reach drilling is similar to horizontal drilling, with the specification that oil and gas are reached even if they are located at further distances. Finally, the complex path technology sees the collection of oil and gas in the same drilling rig when the sources are located in networks revealing twists and turns (American Petroleum Institute, 2009).

11. Conservation or Preservation Issues

In order to answer this question, it is important to understand the difference between the two concepts. Conservation refers to the actual protection of the natural landscape (including forests and animals) in order to ensure that it is not damaged or entirely destroyed. Preservation refers to the desire to restore the original status or highly good conditions within the natural landscape (LDOCE Online, 2009). Given this distinction then, it becomes obvious that the current concern over the effects of drilling operations is aimed at addressing conservation issues. Otherwise put, the desire is for the natural resources to no longer suffer damages. Given that this venture retrieves successful outcomes, a problem of preservation would also be brought to the table, with the intent of further improving the conditions of the lands, the ecosystems and the natural habitats.

12. Water Issues

Concerns over the shortage of fresh water resources have captured the attention of numerous individual and institutional players. The most relevant example in this field is the scarcity of water resources in the Middle East, where wars are expected to break for water, rather than oil. Given this status quo then, the existence of water issues relative to natural gas drilling is only natural. Tests conducted in Wyoming, a land rich in natural gas and drilling wells, concluded that the water contained increased levels of benzene, which, in quantities 1,500 times the safe level for people, can cause anemia and leukemia. The same test indicated that water was being wasted to break down the rocks that prevent drilling teams from reaching the gas. The case in Wyoming is not the single one, but it is of vital importance as it was the first to be documented by the federal authorities. More than 1,000 cases have been documented in Alabama, Colorado, New Mexico, Ohio and Pennsylvania. In one situation, a house exploded as the residential water was contaminated with methane (Lustgarten, 2008).

In Dimock, Pennsylvania, the inhabitants are constantly faced with diarrhea, stomach pains that resemble appendix attacks or vomiting. The animals are also getting sick and the number of game has significantly reduced and more threatening, the population's water wells have become flammable due to contamination with methane. Drillers however deny the allegations and argue that groundwater is protected and not affected by chemicals and other materials used in the drilling processes, or by methane. The politicians also seem to take the side of the industry men, by stating that they are extremely rigorous in issuing permits to drill. The water in Dimock has even been tested by the federal authorities, which argued that they did not find anything wrong with it. However, when the sick inhabitants began using bottled water for drinking and cooking, their symptoms went away (Hurdle, 2009).

13. Future Drilling

With the increasing demand and higher levels of natural gas consumption, the tendency is that of expanding the drilling operations to other regions. A first attempt in this instance would revolve around regional expansion in the zones already revealing wells, such as the example of the Blackfeet Indian Reservation, where drilling expanded from only west, to also include the eastern parts. Also, it is likely that new regions will be considered for drilling, such as the Sullivan or Cayuga Counties in New York.


Baker, D., August 4, 2008, the Compromise "Drill Anywhere" Plan, Truth Out, last accessed on March 26, 2009 -- Truth Out is an independent website, supported only the contributions made by their readers. They did not seek the sponsorship of for-profit organization as their focus was on presenting the facts from an objective standpoint and they also wanted to not become associated with any institution. The ultimate aim of the website is to present the readers with extensive information on various topics of interest…

Cite This Thesis:

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