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Geosynthetics and shale gas

News | August 1, 2012 | By:

At the 2012 edition of the Federation of New York Solid Waste/Recycling Conference and Trade Show at The Sagamore, a session on “Shale Gas Plays” in the Marcellus and Utica formations was held. There were four papers in the session, including ours, which presented the associated geosynthetic opportunities. Arbitrarily placed in two separate groupings, the opportunities are as follows:

At the well pad itself, geosynthetic activities are essentially production related:

  • geomembrane and/or geosynthetic clay liners for fresh water storage and use.
  • double-lined geomembrane/geosynthetic clay liners systems for frack water and production water storage, sedimentation, and reuse.
  • double-lined geomembrane/geosynthetic clay liners systems for disposal of the cuttings generated from vertical and horizontal well drilling.

In the area around the well pad, many activities have geosynthetic opportunities:

  • geomembrane contamination prevention liners at the immediate well drilling vicinity.
  • rigid 3-D sectioned mats for work platforms at the well drilling location.
  • geosynthetic underground storage systems for storm water control and possibly containment of frack water and production water.
  • widening and reconstruction of local paved roads using geotextiles and/or geogrids for access to these remote sites.
  • unpaved road construction using geogrids and/or geotextiles leading from the local paved roads to the well pad and its related operations.
  • unpaved road stabilization using geocells filled with sand or gravel when encountering soft subgrade soils.
  • geofiber mixing with silt and clay soils for unsuitable soil stabilization of roads and parking areas.
  • portable and temporary roadways for rapid deployment and removal to minimize ground surface disturbance.
  • mechanically stabilized earth (MSE) walls and slopes using geosynthetic reinforcement to provide level surfaces for operations, parking, and materials storage.
  • geomembrane, geosynthetic clay liner, or concrete cloth ditch and channel waterproofing for stormwater control.
  • silt fence installation to control slope and site erosion from entering into the local creeks and streams.
  • erosion control materials of all types to prevent or control slope and channel erosion.
  • large amounts of plastic pipe (HDPE and PVC) for fresh water, frack water, production water, and gas product transmission.

As we are witnessing, this rapidly developing area of shale gas drilling, withdrawal, and removal is resulting in significant opportunities for all types of geosynthetics. In this regard, we should be championing our geosynthetic case histories, materials durability, long-term performance, cost-benefit advantages, sustainability enhancement, and innovative uses and solutions. We have an outstanding opportunity to exchange knowledge and experiences of successful use of geosynthetics throughout every segment of this exciting new field.

The presentation associated with the above topics is available on the Federation’s website. It is also incorporated into our expanded white paper #22, “Selected GS Opportunities with Energy Production and Transmission.”

Bob Koerner, Ph.D., P.E., NAE, is the director of Geosynthetic Institute (GSI) and is a member of Geosynthetics magazine’s Editorial Advisory Committee. GSI: +1 610 522 8440,
George M. Koerner, Ph.D., P.E., CQA, is the director designate of GSI,

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