Lesson 5: Shale Energy Exploration, Leasing, and Permitting
Before shale energy production can occur a variety of activities must take place before a single molecule of methane can be produced. As presented in the previous sections, geologists and engineers can collect a variety of geologic, geophysical, and geochemical data from near the surface that provides clues as to whether a shale formation may be productive, but until a well is drilled into the formation of interest nothing can be verified. The exploration phase of a drilling program is the initial stage of drilling assessment wells to directly collect information about the reservoir before a major drilling and fracturing program takes place. This initial information gives company representatives the data they need to make decisions about the economic viability of investing tens or hundreds of millions of dollars in leasing land, drilling, hydraulic fracturing, pipelines, and production. Along with the geologic conditions, it is also necessary to consider the available infrastructure such as roads, railway, water resources, and pipeline capacity. This lesson will discuss the initial phase of shale exploration, including acquiring the rights to drill on land via leasing and understanding what regulatory requirement exist for permitting well sites.
By the end of this lesson, you should be able to:
- Recognize the type of geologic information that is important for exploration activities.
- Understand the leasing process between an energy company and landowner.
- Appreciate the various regulatory requirements to get a well site and associated infrastructure permitted.
- Summarize the various phases of shale energy development and associated timescales.