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Ohio fracking photo tour

David Beach  |  08/23/13 @ 4:00pm  |  Posted in Clean energy

The shale gas drilling boom is not just a theoretical possibility for the 28,587 people of Carroll County, OH. They are already living with dramatic changes to the county’s woods and fields and rolling hills. This photo tour provides a glimpse of what it looks like when fracking comes to rural Ohio.

Epicenter of Ohio shale gas extraction<br />The rolling countryside of Carroll County is a mosaic of farms and woods -- and a rapidly growing number of sites of the oil and gas industry. Preparing to frack<br />A drilling pad being constructed in the middle of the countryside. There are about 15 such pads now in Carroll County. Soon there could be around 60 pads, since more than 300 wells have been permitted in the county and about five wells are typically drilled from each pad using directional drilling methods to frack for shale gas.Drill sites<br />This and the next two photos show a variety of drill pads in the Carroll County area, providing a sense of the contrast between the bucolic farm country and the industrial development.<br />Drill pad in Carroll County.<br />Drill pad in Carroll County.Permits<br />A sign outside a drilling site in Carroll County with information about the wells permitted at the site. Active drilling site<br />This is a close-up view of an active drilling site in Carroll County. It's a noisy industrial place, full of the roar of diesel engines and clanking machinery. The work is episodic -- drilling for a few weeks then operations to frack the well by pumping frack fluids under high pressure to prop open cracks in the shale to allow gas to flow.Water quality issues<br />Many concerns have been raised about the large volumes of water used to frack wells. Another problem is water running off the drill pads and polluting local streams. This well site had to install barriers to stop a run-off problem.Warning sign<br />A warning about the possibility of poisonous hydrogen sulfide gas at a drill site. Trucks are not supposed to enter if the flag is yellow or red. On the day this picture was taken, the flag was green to indicate safety.Air quality impact<br />Kicking up a fine, white dust, a backhoe appears to be blending drill cuttings with silica. The cuttings from the bore hole often contain radioactive elements and must be diluted in order to reduce radioactivity to a level permitted at Ohio landfills. Disposal at hazardous waste landfills would cost much more. Portable lives<br />Drill sites are self-sufficient operations, with diesel power, mobile offices, and satellite communications. Equipment is modular and made to be easily transported by truck. Steel products<br />A line of trucks delivers pipe for the casing of a well. The fracking industry uses a lot of steel products, which is a reason why boosters of Ohio manufacturing are excited about the growth of fracking for shale gas. No Chesapeake Traffic<br />Fracking operations require many truck trips to haul equipment, pipe, chemicals and water. The drilling companies, like Chesapeake Energy, have improved roads in Carroll County to provide access to drill pads. This sign marks the end of the road access at one pad. Industry comes to the Ohio countryside - 1<br />This photo and the next four show the development of new shale gas storage and processing facilities in and around Carroll County. Some of these facilities represent investments of several hundred million dollars, and their size is an indication of the scale of fracking anticipated in Ohio. Industry comes to the Ohio countryside - 2<br />Industry comes to the Ohio countryside - 3<br />Industry comes to the Ohio countryside - 4<br />Industry comes to the Ohio countryside - 5<br />Linear impacts<br />One of the biggest impacts to the rural landscape and wildlife habitat is the construction of gas and oil pipelines. Carroll County is already seeing pipeline construction to connect wells to processing facilities.Sights along the road<br />As the number of wells grows, sights like this container storage yard are becoming more common in Carroll County.The Ohio that will change<br />Carroll County could have 2-3000 wells in the future. The agricultural countryside will be dramatically altered.

Carroll County is at the epicenter of fracking in Ohio. The sparsely populated county just southeast of Canton has more than 300 wells permitted for horizontal hydraulic fracturing in the Utica/Point Pleasant shale formation. Soon there could be several thousand wells.

A few weeks ago, I was able to fly over the county in a small plane to get a view of the impacts. The slideshow above presents the highlights of what I saw from the air and the ground—a variety of photos of well sites and gas processing facilities under construction.

It’s still early in the shale gas boom, but you can see the start of massive industrialization of the countryside. It’s pretty amazing.

Thanks to Paul Feezel and Alan Kemerer of Carroll County Concerned Citizens for arranging my aerial tour of Carroll County. For details on shale well drilling and permitting in Ohio go here. For a map of drilling sites created by the FracTracker Alliance, go here.

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7 years ago

I live here in the heart of Carroll County, and have since 1977, having come from Cuyahoga and Summit Counties. What a beautiful place it was! and how sad to see it torn apart by gas wells. We raised our children here. No, I'm not a tree-hugger.

Just for the record, not everyone is making a lot of money from this, only the ones who own a lot of acreage. Ironically, those of us who live away from the county seat have no access to natural gas for heating our homes. I guess we'll just keep burning wood.

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