While the Marcellus Shale Coalition does not track those specific figures – primarily because our organization represents operators drilling horizontal, not vertical, wells – the fact is that horizontal drilling, which is almost universally used to produce natural gas from the Marcellus Shale, dramatically reduces surface disturbance while increasing the volume of natural gas extracted. This short video from Penn State University provides an overview of the process.
The U.S. Forest Service offers this example to show the difference between the surface disturbance of a vertical and horizontal well:
“The development of thirteen horizontal well pads would correspond to roughly 71.5 acres of total site disturbance. Given that the total disturbance is constrained to 272 acres, the remaining acres of total disturbance would be 200.5 acres. Based on these remaining acres of development, approximately 172 vertical wells could be developed. This combination of horizontal and vertical well sites would thus reflect a reduction of approximately 62 (vertical) well sites, compared if all vertical wells were developed instead. A reduction in such a significant number of sites for oil and gas development would correspond to reduced fragmentation effects on the landscape, though the total affected area would be the same (272 acres). This scenario represents a reduction of 26 percent (number of sites). Also, a reduced number of sites would correspond with reduced noise and human disturbance, even though the duration of drilling several wells at a horizontal site would be longer.”