Unlike conventional resources, unconventional gas (such as shale gas) is trapped in low permeability rock, from which it does not flow naturally. Hence, its extraction is costly and requires sophisticated technologies. Building on my ethnographic work in north-west England and south-east Poland, I explore people’s engagements with shale gas materialities to show how the category of an ‘unconventional resource’ – framed by geological and engineering sciences – has more than merely technological implications. Instead, shale gas produces new sociotechnical relations by trying to remove itself from social entanglements. These attempts fail to contain the unruly forces of the subsurface and local impacts, bringing the alienating dynamics of resource-making into sharp relief. The irregularities of materials and infrastructural limits, integral to the socially dis-embedded ‘unconventionality’ of the developments, inadvertently turn shale gas projects into a site of the political.