Lease roads and well pads are a highly visible and often less than welcome aspect of O&G drilling and producing operations. In South Texas this is occurring as the Cretaceous Eagle Ford shale is being developed from near the Mexican border outward to the east/northeast across several counties stretching more than 150 miles. The "Brush Country" as it is often referred to, is a semi-arid landscape where measures to lessen the impact of developing the shale are fostering a host of new technologies.

To address environmental concerns about the development of the resource, Texas A&M University is adapting "Disappearing Roads" technology to the particular needs of the Eagle Ford. A collaborative project within the Environmentally Friendly Drilling Program has been testing new types of "disappearing roads" in a desert like environment to measure their effectiveness and ability to lower the surface footprint of surface operations. One road was constructed with materials made with recycled drilling waste, another incorporated reusable composite mats, and a third represented a new type of "roll out road" developed in by a student engineering team from the University of Wyoming as a class project. The field demonstration is expected to:

  1. Provide a realistic field trial in representative desert ecosystems so that results could be evaluated efficiently so as to benefit both the industry, the organizations with the technology, and the public sector.

  2. Document and provide the results of technology field trials so that promising processes, systems and products could be utilized in a wider range of gas shale plays.

  3. Speed the commercial development of technology developed to reduce the environmental footprint of drilling activities,

The removable mat concepts may also be used to lessen the impact of constructing water ponds and to provide temporary enlargement of well pads that can accommodate service equipment used in fracturing operations. This paper will describe the technology behind the roads and document their performance in semi-arid rangeland landscapes.

You can access this article if you purchase or spend a download.