What it looks like


  • Impacts to local residents will be mitigated in accordance with the National Planning Policy Framework

  • In any urban areas or areas of scenic beauty, operations will be screened

  • Following any operations, the site will be restored to its previous state



This video has been created to show how sites could be located within an area. The area in the video is a real area but does not represent or indicate any plans to locate sites in the area. It is purely for illustrative purposes.

The video seeks to represent what a shale site both in exploration (temporary sites) and production (commercially gas producing sites) could look like at the surface and how it compares with other installations that are typically seen on the landscape including pylons, windfarms and transmitters.

The video should be viewed in conjunction with our paper on Developing Shale Gas and Maintaining the Beauty of the British Countryside.

Any operations which take place in an urban area or in an area of scenic beauty will either be temporarily or permanently screened depending on the location and which phase of drilling is taking place.

artists impressionWhat can I expect to see on site?


1) Exploration

During the exploration phase, which can last from four to six months, there will be a number of small diameter vertical wells, of around six inches in diameter, which will be drilled and fractured to see if there is any shale gas present and whether it can be extracted.


2) Preparation of the Pad

A shale gas pad provides enough space for all of the drilling rig equipment, piping and storage, and other site facilities such as mobile portacabins for offices and worker restrooms. It can take around 30-60 days to fully prepare a pad as the works are very weather dependent.


3) Drilling the Well

A production phase of one well pad would require just 2 hectares - about the size of a football pitch

Before the main drilling rig arrives on site, the same techniques used to drill a normal water well are used to install a cement or steel conductor pipe which passes through the shallow soil and rock layers. After this, the main drilling rig is brought on-site and takes one week to put together. Once everything is ready, the main drilling programme lasts for about eight weeks.

The average height of a normal drilling rig is about 125ft, which is equivalent to a 10 or 11 storey building or around two-fifths the size of the clock tower of Big Ben.


4) Hydraulic Fracturing (Fracking)

If a well needs it, the next stage of testing is the perforation and hydraulic fracturing (fracking) of the well to release the shale gas. This process typically starts about three - four weeks after drilling has been completed. It takes two to three weeks for a commercial extraction well, but longer for a test well.


What will onshore oil and gas exploration mean for me?


1. Size:

According to the Institute of Director’s report ‘Getting Shale Gas Working’, a production phase of one well pad, would require just 2 hectares - about the size of a football pitch.


2. Noise:

The average drilling rig is around two-fifths the size of the clock tower of Big Ben

The National Planning Policy Framework produced by the Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG) makes it clear that planning authorities should ensure that unavoidable noise emissions are controlled, mitigated or removed at source. In any areas which are deemed close dwellings, all measures will be taken to reduce noise. For example, the site may have sounds walls constructed and sound mitigation equipment will be used to maintain noise limits.


3. Truck movement:

Over 20 years, truck movements average out at 1.5-4.3 per day. Assuming all the truck movements take place in the five years of drilling, truck movements would average 6.1-17.1 per day. This compares to the approximately 370,000 truck journeys which would be needed each year in rural areas to transport the 11 million m3 of milk which is annually produced in the UK by dairy farmers.


4. Working hours to be expected:

The local authorities work with the operators, as they would with any construction site, to control working hours. The desired working hours for a rig in pre-production phases are 24 hours a day. This is in order to speed up the process as much as possible and reduce the time drilling rigs are onsite.


5. Restoration:

The National Planning Policy Framework requires that planning authorities should provide for restoration and aftercare of the site to be carried out to high environmental standards once the production stage is complete.


6. Smell:

There are no specific odours associated with shale gas exploration.


7. Visuals:

At a typical exploration site there will be:

  • Flood lights, which only light up the site itself and are switched on at dusk and off again at dawn.
  • Rig equipment
  • Piping and storage
  • Mobile portacabins for offices
  • Worker restrooms
  • The well head itself


Community Engagement Charter

For more information click here to see our fact sheet on Community Engagement





The average height of a typical drilling rig



The approximate number of weeks a drilling rig will be on site