‘It takes six months to get to this point and then you get gas for decades’

A completed well in Greene County, Pennsylvania.
A completed well in Greene County, Pennsylvania.
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Early one chilly October morning we are bussed to Greene County, Pennsylvania.

At a pad about 10 miles outside Waynesburg, the first stage in the fracking process - drilling - is taking place.

A drilling rig in Green County, Pennsylvania.

A drilling rig in Green County, Pennsylvania.

The huge rigs take around three months to build - and are generally on site for another three, working day and night.

For the tour around the rig we are given ear plugs, but the noise is still overpowering up close.

The machines we see are sifting the mud produced by the well, taking out the solid waste and reusing the water back down the hole.

To protect the surrounding ground, the whole thing sits on a multi-layered membrane which must be regularly checked for holes and other damage.

This stage of the process is undeniably noisy, dirty, smelly, and visually impactful.

This stage of the process is undeniably noisy, dirty, smelly, and visually impactful.

“It is what it is,” says Tom Pickering of Ineos, before detailing the extensive environmental bunding measures that would ‘shield’ UK sites.

As if to prove what can be done, as we leave the site we get off the bus at the end of a short lane.

As we strain our ears to hear the roar of the rig, it is silent, save for birdsong.

A fracking site in Greene County, Pennsylvania.

A fracking site in Greene County, Pennsylvania.

One of the journalists facetiously suggests our hosts are piping in the natural sounds to fool us.

It is an impressive demonstration.

The next stop is a fracking site a few miles away.

After the drilling takes place and the rig comes down, a vast array of high-powered engines are brought in.

Completed well equipment.

Completed well equipment.

The drilling and fracking stages involve huge amounts of heavy equipment being brought on and off site.

It is these truck movements that have often been a bone of contention in the US, and a traffic management plan is a key part of the Ineos’ application.

Once on site, these machines force the fracking fluid into the rocks more than a mile below the surface.

Ineos bosses say the fluid they will use in the UK is a mix of 98 per cent water, 1.5 per cent sand and 0.5 per cent chemicals - all of which are deemed to be non-hazardous by the UK Government in the quantities used.

The frackers are on a break while we are there, but Ineos admits that when the machines are up and running, it is noisier than the drilling rig.

They are, however, only on site for about a week and a half.

Finally, we go to a completed or ‘producing’ well.

On a bowling green sized area in the middle of farm fields filled with cows, it is an incongruous sight.

The facility is made up of a number of metal well heads adorned with solar panels and separate compression units and collection tanks.

Our hosts say this will stay here for the next 20 years, intermittently visited by workmen who keep the whole thing ticking over.

“You can’t hear it, see it or smell it,” says Ineos director, Tom Crotty.

“It takes six months to get to this point and then you get gas for decades.”