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An assessment of the footprint and carrying capacity of oil and gas well sites: The implications for limiting hydrocarbon reserves

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Sarah Clancy, Professor Richard DaviesORCiD



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC-ND).


© 2017 The Authors. We estimate the likely physical footprint of well pads if shale gas or oil developments were to go forward in Europe and used these estimates to understand their impact upon existing infrastructure (e.g. roads, buildings), the carrying capacity of the environment, and how the proportion of extractable resources maybe limited. Using visual imagery, we calculate the average conventional well site footprints to be 10,800m2 in the UK, 44,600m2 in The Netherlands and 3000m2 in Poland. The average area per well is 541m2/well in the UK, 6370m2/well in The Netherlands, and 2870m2/well in Poland. Average access road lengths are 230m in the UK, 310m in The Netherlands and 250m in Poland.To assess the carrying capacity of the land surface, well pads of the average footprint, with recommended setbacks, were placed randomly into the licensed blocks covering the Bowland Shale, UK. The extent to which they interacted or disrupted existing infrastructure was then assessed. For the UK, the direct footprint would have a 33% probability of interacting with immovable infrastructure, but this would rise to 73% if a 152m setback was used, and 91% for a 609m setback. The minimum setbacks from a currently producing well in the UK were calculated to be 21m and 46m from a non-residential and residential property respectively, with mean setbacks of 329m and 447m, respectively. When the surface and sub-surface footprints were considered, the carrying capacity within the licensed blocks was between 5 and 42%, with a mean of 26%. Using previously predicted technically recoverable reserves of 8.5×1011 m3 for the Bowland Basin and a recovery factor of 26%, the likely maximum accessible gas reserves would be limited by the surface carrying capacity to 2.21×1011 m3.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Clancy SA, Worrall F, Davies RJ, Gluyas JG

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Science of the Total Environment

Year: 2018

Volume: 618

Pages: 586-594

Print publication date: 15/03/2018

Online publication date: 03/04/2017

Acceptance date: 18/02/2017

Date deposited: 03/05/2017

ISSN (print): 0048-9697

ISSN (electronic): 1879-1026

Publisher: Elsevier BV


DOI: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2017.02.160


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Funder referenceFunder name
M4ShaleGas project, a scheme funded by the European Union's Horizon 2020 (640715) research and innovation program
ReFINE research consortium led by Newcastle and Durham Universities.