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The Sun: Fracking Sparks New Gold Rush

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Caroline Iggulden, The Sun

I travelled to North Dakota to get a close-up look at some of the most pioneering drilling technology in the world to see what effect the shale revolution could have in Britain.

Pump jack and car wrecks

Times gone by … Williston’s economy is increasingly being driven by the oil industry – Dan Callister

THERE is a new saying in the small town of Williston, North Dakota: “To stumble across money, just step out of your front door.”

That is what recent arrival Nicholas Buttron, 22, claims.

Like thousands of other Americans, he has moved hundreds of miles hoping to make a fortune in the oil and gas fields.

What was once a sleepy, agricultural town has been transformed into a modern Wild West, complete with saloons, roughnecks and dancing girls.

The Midwest’s new Gold Rush has been sparked by fracking — the drilling technique that has finally liberated huge reservoirs of oil within a rock formation known as the Bakken Shale.

Trucker Adam Zaborek

‘I’m earning double what I was in Afghanistan’ … trucker Adam Zaborek
Dan Callister 

Fracking has already helped America overtake Russia as the world’s biggest natural gas producer and they no longer import oil from the Middle East.

Many believe fracking could bring similar benefits to the UK — including former Tory Chancellor Lord Lawson who wrote in The Sun yesterday. There is 1,300TRILLION cubic feet of natural gas in shale rock under Lancashire and Yorkshire alone.

I travelled to Williston to get a close-up look at some of the most pioneering drilling technology in the world to see what effect it could have in Britain.

Fracking — or hydraulic fracturing — involves experts drilling down into shale rock.

‘I had no experience but easily found work’ Crews then shoot tiny holes in the pipe and pump water in to open up cracks in the rock followed by sand to keep them open, allowing oil or gas to flow.

I watch Liberty Resources Inc driller Wes Jensen, 29, work with a surgeon’s precision to bore a hole. This well alone will produce 600 barrels of oil a day.

The atmosphere is strangely peaceful. There are no unpleasant fumes or black smoke. In fact, you have a wonderful view as North Dakota’s green plains stretch out to meet the sky.

Luke Pease, 24, came from his home state Montana looking for work because he was more than £33,000 in debt. He now earns £64,000 a year casing pipes.

He said: “I came here with no qualifications or experience and found a job straight away.

“It is hard because my fiancée Lindsay is back home and I only go back every three months. But thanks to my job, I’ve been able to propose to her in Rome and save for a wedding and a dream honeymoon to New Zealand.”

Adam Zaborek, 25, from Wisconsin, came to Williston after serving as a military police officer in Afghanistan. He now works as a lorry driver transporting fracking’s waste product, salt water.

He said: “I was making about £33,000 as a reservist in Afghanistan. I now earn double that.”

Many fracking firms choose to put their workers up in a “man camp” — vast villages of comfortable prefabricated cabins.

These were erected on the outskirts of the town and help ease the housing burden. But it isn’t just oil-field workers cashing in on Williston’s fracking frenzy. […]

'Man camp' in Williston

‘Man camp’ … housing for influx of fracking workforce in Williston
Dan Callister 

‘Fracking will bring jobs and lower bills’

Before the boom, Williston’s population was just 12,500. That figure has now almost doubled.

Everywhere you look, new hotels and restaurants are springing up. Big Willy’s saloon and grill keeps workers fuelled with the “Frac-Attack” burger, which consists of a pound of beef and two grilled cheese sandwiches.

And with the queue of trucks snaking around the drive-thru at McDonald’s, it is easy to believe claims it is the chain’s second busiest US branch.

In 2006, North Dakota was 39th out of the 50 states in terms of income per head. Today it is sixth.

Williston’s Mayor Ward Koeser said: “I feel glad our little town has given so many people the chance to build a good life for themselves.”

In the UK, advocates of fracking argue drilling could have a similar impact, helping to close the north-south wealth divide.

Chris Wright, 48, is chief executive of Liberty Resources. Last month he addressed the House of Lords on the issue.

Chris is frustrated by the reluctance of many in Britain to make the most of the new resource, claiming fears of water contamination are exaggerated.

He said: “Drinking water is found at around 2,000ft but we drill to 10,000ft.

“In more than two million fractures, there has not been one case of contaminated water.

“I have been to the north of England twice recently and found it hard to see depressed towns with boarded-up shops.

“Fracking in the UK will bring jobs for blue-collar workers, lower energy bills and see a return to manufacturing.

“Britain is a great nation and should be at the forefront of this — it started the Industrial Revolution after all.”

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