Oil and Gas Drilling Reclamation
The town of Parachute, CO, lies in the approximate epicenter of the basin and that’s where Colby Reid, reclamation manager for Western States Reclamation, has been working lately.
With such mammoth reserves, the basin is home to thousands of wells, with hundreds added annually. It is Reid’s job to revegetate the area surrounding new wells. It’s generally a two-step process. "First, " he explains, "the gas company will lay down the road. As soon as the road is pushed in, we’re there to seed the topsoil and the roadside. Then, after the drilling pad is put in—hole drilled and piping put in—we’re in the next day. The gas company makes the pad a bit smaller and contours it, then we go in and do the final seeding. "
These "pads " and their surrounding area total about 5 to 7 acres each and are located on an assortment of private land, Bureau of Land Management land, and Forest Service land. They range from an elevation of 5,000 feet to as high as 9,000 feet.
Reid estimates that about 70% of his revegetation efforts in this area involve hydroseeding, applying varying seed mixes of grasses and shrubs. He treats the area around the drilling pads as well as the roads leading into the pads; the work is not easy. "This is a harsh environment, " he says, "and it typically takes about a year to get any vegetation established. We have to contend with rain, (or lack thereof) and wind, and weed control as well. " He is in the area frequently because of his extensive reclamation work and is able to periodically check on previous applications, but reports little need for post-treatment touch-up work.
His applications occur in two phases. Initially, he hydroseeds with organic fertilizer and a guar tackifier together with the seed load. Then, about 24 hours later, he follows this with a modified-matrix flexible growth medium mulch. He uses 50-pound bags of Flexterra, applying about 3,500 pounds per acre, using two coats from two different directions to avoid a "shadowing " effect. He applies this mulch well after seeding, he explains, because "out West, it is too dry to combine all of this in a single hydroseeding application. The seed would just get caught up in the mulch. "
Reid utilizes two types of hydroseeding machines. He has a Finn 3,300-gallon HydroSeeder and two new Finn Titan 4,000-gallon units, all of which use paddle agitation. "Jet agitation is more for smaller machines, " he notes.
He uses hydroseeding cannons to spray up to about 200 feet, but beyond this, he has to use hoses, often 200 to 300 feet in length. "We do a lot of hose work, " he explains.
Although hydroseeding is his most common treatment of choice, he also uses erosion control blankets, employs a fair amount of drill seeding, and, occasionally, uses straw/hay mulch rather than a hydromulch slurry. "If the terrain is flat enough, I’ll drill-seed, " he says. "However, if it is too steep or too remote, I’ll hydroseed. "
In contrast to many other revegetation projects around the country, Reid finds that in most of the areas he works, a soil analysis has been done. The pH tends to come up a little alkaline, but not enough to require soil amendments.
Because of the demanding environment in which he works, Reid finds that his hydroseeding work remains pretty stable, perhaps increasing a bit due to new wells being drilled.