Building an access road in heavily forested areas used to mean creating a wide right of way and hauling in large amounts of sand and gravel to build a permanent road to carry heavy equipment in and out of a drilling lease.
Through innovations designed by Devon’s Surface Land and Construction team beginning around 2006, these roads are now built using the very trees that are cleared in the process. The mulch from these cleared trees is used to build temporary access roads. This reduces the size of the right of way by 50 percent and conserves plant and wildlife habitat. Instead of burning the waste wood, the wood is turned into mulch and layered on top of the much smaller right of way.
“At the end of the day, it’s all about how we can do our work, how we can carry out drilling operations and access our locations without clearing 20-meter right of ways and building high-grade roads,” Surface and Land Manager Kevin Stark said.
Another innovation includes laying down the mulch in extremely remote areas, such as bogs and swamps, which were once only accessible in frost conditions. The mulch is ground into fine particles and put on the access roads in the bog to retain the frost.
“By retaining the frost, it gives us an opportunity to carry out drilling and completion activity another two to three weeks longer than normal,” he said.
The benefits of this process include fewer disturbances to the root structures in the area and the natural seedbed. The area naturally re-vegetates much quicker so the reclamation window is shorter than what it would be.
“The more you can minimize the disturbance, the better off for the wildlife,” Stark said.