A Chicken Coop and a Well Site

Don't let these pictures fool you--I am not a fan of fowl of any kind, generally speaking. (I once hit a very scary rooster with a bucket because he wouldn't stop chasing me.) But I had to go into the field for work last week and was pleasantly surprised to find this flock of chickens along the way.

Perched on a hilltop above the Marcellus well site we visited in Wetzel County is an A-frame house where several well operators from Louisiana have been living. Just down the hill from the A-frame is a chicken coop that houses several chickens and three roosters. Apparently they can lay up to 20 eggs per day. These operators not only decided they wanted to keep chickens while living in WV, but they also put in a garden where they grew veggies this summer. I must admit I was surprised. They only live there temporarily and still go home every few weeks.

I've been wanting to photograph the drilling activity that is so pervasive in some parts of WV for a while, and I finally got that chance. Below is a view of the drill pad from right in front of the A-frame house. The surrounding area was amazing--a series of high ridges that sloped sharply on either side with very little flat land available.

I took these shots while wearing a bright orange hard hat (the steel-toed shoes came later). The wells on this pad have already been drilled and completed. Since the rig is long gone, it's quiet now, though I'm not sure how noisy it may be when the processors are running. 

Above is a wellhead, where the gas comes out of the ground. Below are water tanks that store the water that's extracted before the gas and oil go into the pipelines.

Above is a line of processing units, and below is a closer view from the back side. The gas passes through them and gets warmed so that the gas, water, and oil can be separated.

What struck me about this visit was the unexpected contrasts, the shades of gray. These wells are changing our landscape, literally and figuratively. They provide income and jobs for some people, and mar the bucolic views of others. But some of the men who've come here to tend them are the kind of people who will raise chickens and grow a garden even while they're away from home. Someone told me recently that people don't have good traits and bad traits--they have attributes. And that those attributes are either good or bad depending on the situation. I think it's crucial to be aware of the complexities here and to form opinions about this activity with a solid appreciation of the nuances. I guess the older I get, the more I see the gray. A choice that may have seemed so clearly "wrong" ten years ago I can now appreciate as one that allows someone to support a family or a way of life.