Drilling Site FAQs

Posted: March 10, 2010

Drilling for natural gas in the Marcellus shale brings many new questions and uncertainties about the process. We have developed a list of frequently asked questions (FAQ's) and provided answers to these questions here, based on our research and experience.
Reclaimed site

Reclaimed site

This issue focuses on the on-site issues of drilling pads and restoration. Look for future issues that discuss additional topics, such as pipelines, water, regulatory changes, and other issues associated with drilling for natural gas.

1.  What is the size of the drill pad?

The drill pad will range from 3 acres to about 5 acres depending on the company and what they plan on doing on the pad. Some companies will also include water reservoirs on the pad while others will not. Crushed rock will be applied to the pad surface to help control mud and dust during the drilling and fracing processes.


2.  What happens to trees that are on the drill pad when it is cleared?

The best place to deal with pad timber is in the lease agreement. There are many options, but your set of options will be affected by the gas company's policy.

One option for the landowner is to deal with merchantable timber himself/herself by working directly with a forester. Have the forester determine the timber value and then the landowner would sell the timber either by bid or negotiation. Non-merchantable timber would need to be felled and disposed of.


Another option is the gas company will purchase the timber. Some companies will have the timber appraised by a forester, pay the landowner and then they will sell the timber to recover their costs. Some companies will cut the non-merchantable timber and then have it chipped. Other companies will offer the landowner a flat rate for the timber without an appraisal.


It may benefit the landowner to have the timber appraised by a forester independently. Having the help of a forester will be of benefit to the landowner in negotiations with the gas company.


For more specific information see “Forest Landowners and Natural Gas Development: Timber Resources”. 


3.  Must the gas company restore the drill pad after drilling and fracing?

During the pad construction process the topsoil will be pushed to one side for use after the drilling and production activity. When the drilling activities are completed the pad will be restored to approximately the same contours as before drilling. Some companies routinely remove the rock to reuse elsewhere, others do not. The top soil will be placed back on the pad and the area reseeded.


4.  What will the size of the pad area be for a producing well?

This will vary by company. It will generally be about 1 ½ acres. Remember that the pad will not be completely reclaimed until the wells are no longer producing. The companies need access to the wells for maintenance, to haul off production fluids that come to the surface (this water is stored in tanks on the site), to re-frac at a later time, and other activities related to gas production.


5.  What will be planted/seeded on the well pad?

The pads are reseeded using DEP approved native plants. Trees cannot be replanted on the  1 ½ acre site until the wells cease production and are completely reclaimed.


6.  Can the landowner request different plants to be used instead of the “normal” plants?

The landowner can request other plants. For example, the pad can serve as a wildlife food plot. In fact, some companies are encouraging that landowners consider this option. The seed mix needs to consist of DEP-approved species and should not include exotic invasive species. The best place to put this requirement is in the actual lease agreement. If the landowner is already leased, the landowner can negotiate with the gas company. The companies are generally willing to entertain reasonable requests.

Look for future FAQs about additional topics in the months to come.