Abstract

The aerial extent of the Haynesville Shale play has been analyzed with regard to regulatory and permitting processes such that unavoidable surface impacts can be planned in a manner that allows operators to minimize both risk and cost from operations in environmentally sensitive areas – the wetlands of northwest Louisiana.

A workflow has been developed and applied for operators with significant leaseholds seeking to understand the volume of wetlands that may be impacted due to construction of drilling pads, reserve pits, access roads, flowlines, pipelines and gathering systems that comprise field infrastructure. Working under new rules since 2008, regulatory agencies require offsets for unavoidable impacts to wetlands to occur in the watershed where the impacts are planned to occur. With limited mitigation acreage available in an area where surface rights are locked up by landowners and operators, the need for creative wetland analyses and mitigation solutions has risen to need-to-know-now status.

Of the 4.3 million surface acres in the Louisiana and Texas Haynesville Shale play, more than 23% of the Louisiana play area is considered jurisdictional wetlands by the US Army Corps of Engineers. After operators avoid and minimize their wetlands impacts, GIS analysis of current and past land compositions and uses can be used to forecast future unavoidable wetland impacts from oil and gas development activities. Results of this analysis are used to formulate an appropriate compensatory mitigation solution that can be readily approved by regulatory agencies.

Surface impact analysis employs a unique methodology and workflow that has shown to generate significant real-dollar savings for operators, allows compensatory mitigation plans to be proactively developed thereby accelerating agency regulatory processes, and transfers risk and liability from oil and gas operators to those delivering wetland mitigation solutions.

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