DEEP IN THE rolling tree clad hills of Pennsylvania, on a hilltop close to a group of barns and farmhouses ,Chevron’s Kikta well pad can be found at the end of a narrow country lane.
This is part of the Marcellus shale, 250,000 sq km (96,500 square miles) of gas fields stretching across Pennsylvania, West Virginia and New York State. The drilling rig is 30 meters high, so large that it is hard to imagine how it could have got to the site, but it comes apart and the components fit onto lorries. It sits on an acre of flattened hilltop, along with a million gallon reservoir to provide the huge quantities of water needed for extracting shale gas. Vehicles and machines are poised for action. Four wells will be drilled from this one pad. The drill will first bore 2,3002,600 meters (7,500 8,500 feet) downwards; then the drill bit is coaxed to the horizontal and the drilling continues outwards. Gas will start rising to the wellheads, just a few meters apart, after the next task is performed: hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.