Encana USA’s timely surface reclamation techniques keeps land preserved
by Encana Oil & Gas (USA) Inc.
July 8, 2013
PINEDALE – Encana Oil & Gas (USA) Inc. is committed to responsible development and continues to maintain focus on returning the land back to useful purposes by reclaiming land, roads and pipeline right-of-ways quickly and efficiently.
According to Josh Sorenson, Encana USA reclamation specialist, Encana disturbed roughly 110 acres and reclaimed 210 acres last year.
"Approximately one quarter of those acres were re-disturbance," informed Sorenson. "We had four rigs that drilled about 60 wells last year. By drilling multi-well locations and re-disturbing existing wells, our new disturbance figures remain fairly low."
This year, five rigs will be working in the field. "While we’ll have more activity, our goal is to reclaim 50-60 locations, which is roughly 220 acres. We anticipate reclaimed acreage to exceed acres of new disturbance in 2013," stated Sorenson.
Encana USA has a goal to return the soil to the ground within one year of disturbance. The company’s timely revegetation efforts retain nutrients and soil function, as the shape and contour of the land is quickly and easily returned.
"We begin re-contouring land around April 15, once the frost leaves the ground," said Sorenson. "As far as seed bed preparation, we wait until September 15 to chisel, roll and plant so seeds can take advantage of winter and spring moisture to help with spring germination."
The revegetation of the land takes a great deal more time, Sorenson added. "We use seed mixes composed of native and desirable species, however it often takes more than five years to have healthy, diverse and productive reclaim."
In Jonah, 14,000 acres can be disturbed at any given time. Once that is reached, land has to be successfully reclaimed before more acreage can be disturbed.
Encana USA has 13 locations that have met rollover criteria, nearing 50 acres of rollover credit. Rollover is when a location’s reclamation is close to the original vegetation composition of the surrounding native land.
"Rollover is an incentive to make sure we reclaim land at the same pace, or better, as disturbing it," explained Sorenson. "We have to track surface disturbance on 950 locations in Jonah. At the rate we are going, the cap for Jonah disturbance (14,000 acres) will not be met."
As part of our ongoing effort to minimize environmental impacts, Encana USA changed from reserve pit drilling pads to closed loop system drilling pads a few years ago to reduce disturbance and potential impacts to wildlife.
"This modification is friendlier to both the subsoil and the wildlife, preventing raptors and other birds from entering reserve pits. Last year, we reclaimed one emergency reserve netted pit we had in the field," said Sorenson.
To help maintain cheat grass, thistle and other invasive weeds within the Jonah, Encana USA will continue to work with Hindsight and QEP Resources Inc. to employ students in the Youth Employment Program (YEP). Established in 2010, the program goals are to eliminate foreign weeds and manage established weeds to prevent further expansion.
Youth must complete Encana USA field orientation, safety training, and be able to identify potential risks such as ticks, dehydration, trip hazards, traffic, sunburn and well site needs. This past summer, two crews took on the challenge to grub weeds, pull cheat grass and pick up trash along the way.
This year, roughly 30 students have been hired for the program, and will start the first week of June to help protect and preserve the land from noxious weeds and remove trash from the field.
"We are proud of the hard work these students have put in," proclaimed Sorenson. "They are not only gaining a sense of pride and responsibility, but also learning to become good stewards of the land."
Sorenson also attributes Encana’s substantial reclamation program to his predecessor, Ralph Swift. "Ralph had a solid reclamation program in place and trained me to use the tools he acquired through trial and error to achieve the best results," said Sorenson.
"For example, we plant seed species specifically adapted to the climate of the Jonah Field, grown and collected from localized sources. Although we are not required to, Encana takes the time to test for noxious and invasive species, including cheat grass. Using localized seed sources and rejecting collections with cheat grass improves the success of our reclaimed sites."
Successful reclamation is a result of careful planning, fertilization and irrigation. Reclaimed lands minimize environmental impacts, attract wildlife and support wildlife habitats and passages.
Over the past 10 years, Encana USA has reclaimed 3,778 of the 4,846 acres of land that has been disturbed as a result of natural gas extraction in the Jonah Field – nearly 78 percent.
"We are continually evaluating our processes for improvement, monitoring the success of reclamation, and researching and looking into innovative procedures to improve upon our existing processes," stated Sorenson. "It’s a never-ending process."
2012 Year-end Jonah Field Reclamation Stats:
210: Acres seeded back to vegetation (41 well pads plus small roads leading to pad)
20: Acres of pipeline and roads seeded back to vegetation
4,846: Total disturbed acres
3,778: Total acres seeded back to vegetation on Encana leases
78: Percent of disturbed land that has been put into the reclamation cycle