Work at the city of Tyler well site No. 1 was winding down Friday, even as both the city and C.W. Resources awaited the ruling from a state district judge on whether an oil and gas lease at Lake Tyler was legal.
The lawsuit filed against the city and C.W. Resources by the Save Lake Tyler Association did not seek an injunction, allowing C.W. Resources to follow a drilling contract the city signed in December and ratified in March. The gas exploration and production company recently completed drilling at the first site and is currently down rigging to remove the rig.
Drilling at the site began April 12. To prepare the 1.7-acre site, Patterson UTI Operations Manager Curtis Mann said crews flagged the perimeter, bulldozed standing timber and brought in clay and cement to make a hard foundation for the rig and drilling equipment.
"The rig is in pieces when we bring it in on trucks," he said. "It takes about 45 loads on average to bring all the pieces we need."
C.W. Resources Inc. landman Michael Blumn said the 170-foot rig is like "a big erector set."
It takes three days to set up the rig and prepare it for drilling. A 1,000 horsepower electric generator adjacent to the rig powers the site. Bits with metal teeth grind into the earth at a furious pace for the first five days or about 6,000 feet. But the deeper the bit goes, the slower the drilling is as the rock becomes harder and the temperatures greater. Workers must also pause every few days to change bits as the metal teeth are reduced to small, metal bumps.
Thirty days later, after operating 24 hours a day and seven days a week, the well reaches its optimal depth of 12,000 feet. After the well is drilled, a system of iron pipes called the production casing is lowered into the site to carry the gas.
A mud pit at the drilling site collects drilling fluids from the rig and clean-up water from the site. Mann said these fluids are non-toxic and local farmers use the liquid collected in the pits for fertilizer.
As of Tuesday, the first city well on Lake Tyler is not producing because C.W. Resources is awaiting a "frac date," or a time when the company can fracture the underground rock to allow the gas to flow more freely from the formation.
Once the well is producing, a pipeline will take the gas, oil and water from the well to a site off County Road 3341. Trucks will frequently siphon off the material collected in tanks at this centralized site. Blumn said C.W. Resources chose to put the tanks and compressors away from the road and each drill site to minimize the amount of noise and traffic the operation produces.
After drilling at each site is complete, crews will dismantle the rig and move the whole operation to a new location. What is left behind is a 6-foot-tall "Christmas tree," or descending arrangement of pipes and gauges sticking out of the ground.
Blumn said C.W. Resources hasn't decided where it will drill next of the four sites approved by the city, but companies typically drill in a spiral pattern out from a producing well until the amount of gas they retrieve begins to drop.
"We'll watch production and study logs to determine the best place to go from here," Mann said.
At any one time there are up to three companies and eight rigs operating on the Cotton Valley Sand Formation around Lake Tyler or Lake Tyler East, Blumn said.
But finding developable gas sites is not an exact science.
"We'll take it slow and see how we produce," he said. "But the only way to really find out is to put that bit in the dirt and drill."
Each well costs about $1.3 million to drill whether it produces or not, he said.
Laura Jett Krantz covers Tyler city government, planning and zoning and the Parks Board. She can be reached at 903.596.6266. e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org