Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

New scientific approach assesses land recovery following oil and gas drilling

08.02.2017

Vegetation at most abandoned oil and gas pads slow to recover after 10 years

A new scientific approach can now provide regional assessments of land recovery following oil and gas drilling activities, according to a new U.S. Geological Survey study published in the journal Science of the Total Environment.


USGS soil scientist Travis Nauman records vegetation data on decommissioned well pad.

Credit: USGS

When developing oil and gas well pads, the vegetation and soil are removed to level the areas for drilling and operations. The new assessment approach, called the disturbance automated reference toolset, or DART, is used to examine recovery patterns after well pads are plugged and abandoned to help resource managers make informed decisions for future well pad development.

"These results may assist land managers in deciding what areas might be best utilized for energy development while also minimizing the long-term environmental impacts," said Travis Nauman, a USGS scientist and the lead author of the study.

The recovery of well pads following oil and gas development is an area of growing importance because recent technological advances such as hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling have initiated rapid increases in development and production. Previous studies estimate that about 11,583 square miles of land in central North America were cleared for oil and gas related purposes between 2000 and 2012.

USGS scientists examined oil and gas well pad recovery on the Colorado Plateau using a new approach that incorporates satellite imagery, digital soil mapping, predictive ecological modeling and field assessments to evaluate vegetation recovery following well pad abandonment. Scientists used DART to study 1,800 well pads in Utah, Colorado and New Mexico. Satellite imagery was used to compare vegetation cover of the abandoned sites to surrounding undisturbed areas with roughly equivalent climate, soil, topography and management histories.

Findings show that most abandoned oil and gas pads in the study are characterized by more bare ground and less vegetation than surrounding undisturbed areas, even after more than 9 years since abandonment. The majority of pads had 15-45 percent increases in bare ground exposure relative to comparable nearby areas. More exposed bare ground makes areas much more susceptible to soil erosion and dust emission.

Differing recovery across environmental gradients and land stewardship suggests that these can be useful for identifying conditions that may promote or hamper pad recovery. Well pads in grasslands, canyon complexes, blackbrush shrublands and shale badlands are not recovering as well as other ecotypes on the Colorado Plateau. Warmer areas with more summer-dominated precipitation were also associated with reduced well pad recovery. Well pads on federally and privately managed lands had the highest recovery index while state-administered lands had the lowest recovery of the ownership entities evaluated. These findings can help managers identify policies or procedures that may lead to improved well pad recovery.

It is still unclear exactly how long well pad disturbances persist on the landscape once well pads are abandoned, particularly in more arid regions like the Southwest, but it may take many years. Active management intervention, or rehabilitation, of vegetation and soils at abandoned well pads has become more common in recent years, but additional work could increase the success of these efforts. New technological advances like DART can help land managers better understand these disturbances by providing timely assessments to help inform management decisions.

Media Contact

Catherine Puckett
cpuckett@usgs.gov
352-377-2469

 @USGS

http://www.usgs.gov 

Catherine Puckett | EurekAlert!

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht Massive impact crater from a kilometer-wide iron meteorite discovered in Greenland
15.11.2018 | Faculty of Science - University of Copenhagen

nachricht The unintended consequences of dams and reservoirs
14.11.2018 | Uppsala University

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: UNH scientists help provide first-ever views of elusive energy explosion

Researchers at the University of New Hampshire have captured a difficult-to-view singular event involving "magnetic reconnection"--the process by which sparse particles and energy around Earth collide producing a quick but mighty explosion--in the Earth's magnetotail, the magnetic environment that trails behind the planet.

Magnetic reconnection has remained a bit of a mystery to scientists. They know it exists and have documented the effects that the energy explosions can...

Im Focus: A Chip with Blood Vessels

Biochips have been developed at TU Wien (Vienna), on which tissue can be produced and examined. This allows supplying the tissue with different substances in a very controlled way.

Cultivating human cells in the Petri dish is not a big challenge today. Producing artificial tissue, however, permeated by fine blood vessels, is a much more...

Im Focus: A Leap Into Quantum Technology

Faster and secure data communication: This is the goal of a new joint project involving physicists from the University of Würzburg. The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research funds the project with 14.8 million euro.

In our digital world data security and secure communication are becoming more and more important. Quantum communication is a promising approach to achieve...

Im Focus: Research icebreaker Polarstern begins the Antarctic season

What does it look like below the ice shelf of the calved massive iceberg A68?

On Saturday, 10 November 2018, the research icebreaker Polarstern will leave its homeport of Bremerhaven, bound for Cape Town, South Africa.

Im Focus: Penn engineers develop ultrathin, ultralight 'nanocardboard'

When choosing materials to make something, trade-offs need to be made between a host of properties, such as thickness, stiffness and weight. Depending on the application in question, finding just the right balance is the difference between success and failure

Now, a team of Penn Engineers has demonstrated a new material they call "nanocardboard," an ultrathin equivalent of corrugated paper cardboard. A square...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

“3rd Conference on Laser Polishing – LaP 2018” Attracts International Experts and Users

09.11.2018 | Event News

On the brain’s ability to find the right direction

06.11.2018 | Event News

European Space Talks: Weltraumschrott – eine Gefahr für die Gesellschaft?

23.10.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Purdue cancer identity technology makes it easier to find a tumor's 'address'

16.11.2018 | Health and Medicine

Good preparation is half the digestion

16.11.2018 | Life Sciences

Microscope measures muscle weakness

16.11.2018 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>