Reclamation covers wide variety of aspectsWritten by Natasha Wheeler
“What is reclamation?” asks Anadarko Health, Safety and Environment Representative Katie Dykgreve. “From my perspective, it’s returning the disturbed land to usable production and restoring aesthetic value.”
As an expert working with the plug-and-abandon phase of coalbed methane wells, Dykgreve faces the challenges of land reclamation on a regular basis.
“Not only is reclamation part of helping the earth heal after we have put our operations out, but it is also our interaction with the public. Part of what allows us to work to produce energy is our social license to operate,” she says.
From beginning to end, Anadarko strives to work with people in the community, talking, sharing and listening to what they have to say.
“We build a rapport with landowners and agencies. That is really helpful for us, especially with reclamation planning,” she explains.
Reclamation is an important step toward bringing compatibility between people, planet and profit for industries that disturb natural habitat.
“Sustainability means meeting the needs of current generations without compromising the ability of each following generation to meet their own needs,” adds Dykgreve.
Before a project begins, the reclamation team has to consider many factors, such as soil types, necessary amendments added to the soil, sediment control, storm water pollution, weed management and more.
“Seeding is a lot of what I do, especially on the plug-and-abandon side of the process, when I am headed toward final reclamation,” she comments.
Finding the right seed mixture, ordering the correct seeds and getting the timing right for reestablishing plants can be challenging.
“At the end of the day, I want more than 70 percent of my vegetation to come back, and I want to get released from having to pay bond for a location that can be cleared,” she remarks.
Recently, Anadarko has used new virtual technology for on-site planning that allows specialists to review a location before teams of people go out to visit it.
“Our GIS whizzes in Denver, Colo. can put together a map and lay it over our design for a well location. Using Google Earth, they can match it up with the topography. We can do certain layers for wildlife, soils data, ecological site descriptions and more,” Dykgreve notes.
This allows employees like Dykgreve to gain a better understanding before she goes out to the site about where everything is located and how it all goes together.
“It’s handy for me to do a desktop analysis for what’s going to happen when I get out there, but I need boots on the ground too,” she adds.
Virtual and real-time data are used to determine vegetation populations, land slope patterns, wildlife habitat areas and more.
“We have to meet Environmental Protection Agency, Bureau of Land Management and surface landowner standards,” Dykgreve states.
Reclamation planning efforts take place long before a site is disturbed, and intermediate reclamation takes place during the life of the well to minimize disturbance as much as possible.
“Plug-and-abandon starts with engineering. They decide that the location isn’t productive anymore,” notes Dykgreve.
Next, the execution of permits and notices of intent follow negotiations with land and mineral owners, while agreements are settled on for final reclamation timelines.
“Somebody has to pull the equipment off, somebody has to pour cement for the bridge plug, and somebody caps the well. There are a lot of players,” she describes.
Teams are then sent out to re-contour slopes to blend in with the natural landscape and prepare the seedbed.
“It can take a long time. We have some stuff that’s been plugged since 1997 that hasn’t been cleared,” notes Dykgreve. “One of the things I have talked about is planning ahead. With coalbed methane, producers were moving really fast, there was a big boom, and I don’t think anyone was thinking about the plug-and-abandon stage.”
Luckily, not all sites pose as much of a challenge. With some forward planning, they can be reclaimed and bond-released within a couple of growing seasons.
“I think it’s really important to throw around ideas for how to reclaim these areas. With reclamation, it really depends on the area,” she continues.
Dykgreve explains, “It doesn’t matter if it’s 20 years from now or five years from now, we need to figure out how we are going to handle it in the long run.”
Katie Dykgreve was one of several speakers at the Douglas Reclamation Plan Workshop, hosted by the University of Wyoming Reclamation and Restoration Center and Extension on July 22.