As drilling and completion technologies evolve in the unconventional plays, so are technologies and techniques for constructing surface facilities, facilitating permits, and monitoring above-ground assets.
Dana Burns, vice president of engineering, Potesta & Associates Inc., delved into geotechnical and construction-related issues. The Appalachian region features steep topography, and cut slopes are prone to landslides as slopes are often constructed steeper than normal to limit earthwork. Common causes of landslides can be saturated soil, uncompacted fill material or organic material. Over time, organic material can disintegrate and soil sloughs can develop, so organics should be removed prior to placement of fill. And, fill has to be compacted. Additionally, seeps and springs are common throughout the Marcellus fairway, and these need to be controlled with French drains. “Take care of drainage,” he said.
Burns had this advice for the attendees: It’s important to include geotechnical considerations in design and during construction. These steps will deliver significant cost savings during construction and afterwards.
Elliott Bouillion, chief executive officer, Resource Environmental Solutions, advocated the benefits of mitigation banks. His company works with environmental consultants to assess pipelines and understand their impacts, and to supply solutions that help streamline permitting processes. For the past two years, the firm has been working closely with Pennsylvania regulators on best practices and on methodologies to assess impacts, toward developing a system that will speed up permitting.
Streams and wetlands are huge issues in the Marcellus region, he noted. “We want to find the best ways to do things. The industry has wonderful technologies and wonderful people.”
Resource Environmental Solutions is introducing the first commercial mitigation bank in Pennsylvania. The plan involves the purchase of credits from an approved compensatory mitigation bank. “It’s an umbrella bank, and we have two properties in the heart of all the action,” said Bouillion. “The fact that regulators are going to feel good about the offsets will make the permits move. “ Significantly, the mitigation bank sponsor carries the liability for mitigation, not the permittee.
Finally, companies should focus on business processes, not technology, said Jonathan Pollack, senior vice president, commercial solutions, for GeoDecisions. But, GIS technology can be used to great advantage to help companies safeguard the environment and ensure safety.
Pollack talked about incident and disaster management, emergency response, community involvement, public awareness and asset location. “GIS is a powerful tool that can enhance operations, safety and security and profits, and it can all be done securely,” he said.