Horizontal drilling, also known as directional drilling, is one of the real technological advances behind natural gas extraction. This technology, equal in importance to hydraulic fracturing, enables companies to extract trillions of cubic feet of natural gas from the various shale formations. It not only provides access to reservoirs of natural gas thousands of feet beneath the surface that would otherwise not be available via vertical drilling, but it also minimizes the above-ground drilling footprint and protects acres of beautiful landscape.
Horizontal drilling allows for the use of only one access road and one pipeline, instead of hundreds. Another benefit of horizontal drilling is that the production of previously untapped resources is increasing the supply of natural gas, thus keeping utility costs low.
During the process of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, a wellbore is drilled vertically into the shale thousands of feet below the surface (and below the underground aquifer). The drilling process then makes approximately a 90-degree turn into the shale formation and extends the wellbore, horizontally, up to an additional 10,000 feet. Drilling horizontally into shale formations intersects and frees gas from the vertical fractures that contain gas deposits inherent to the shale in the Marcellus region. When combined with hydraulic fracturing, this technique vastly increases the productivity of natural gas extraction.