Gas and oil wells play an important role in meeting the world's energy demands. When a well stops producing, the land the well is located on must go through a reclamation process.
Reclamation is meant to restore the land to its previous condition. In order to successfully complete the oilfield reclamation process, there are four steps that gas and oil companies must take once a well reaches the end of its productive lifecycle.
1. Minimize Land Disturbances
It's impossible to drill a gas or oil well without creating some disturbances in the land. Step one in the reclamation process is working to minimize these disturbances.
This can include the capping or filling of the well, the restoration of any roadways used to access the well site, and the removal of all equipment.
2. Replace Soil
Once land disturbances have been minimized, the soil that was removed from the well site must be replaced. Many oil and gas companies will actually store soil from well sites so that the original soil can be used during the reclamation process.
Companies that do not store soil invest in quality topsoil that can support the type of vegetation and wildlife that existed on the land prior to the drilling of the well.
3. Restore Drainage
The topography of a well site is often changed in order to facilitate drilling activities. Once the well is no longer viable, any topographical changes that were made must be reversed.
The primary reason behind this step of the reclamation process is to restore proper drainage to the area. Without proper drainage, a well site can fall victim to flooding and erosion.
Once a well site has had its soil replaced and proper drainage restored, the revegetation process can begin. This step in the reclamation process helps to restore the native plants, trees, and shrubs to a well site.
The extent of the revegetation that must occur for the reclamation to be considered a success is typically agreed upon before the well site is established.
Landowners and oil and gas companies negotiate reclamation criteria as part of the lease that grants access to a well site.
While oil and gas wells are important, they can leave scars on a landscape. The reclamation process was introduced to help prevent permanent land damage as a result of drilling activities.
By restoring the land to its previous condition, oil and gas companies can ensure that drilling activities will not have a negative impact on the environment.