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Minimizing Impacts of Site Preparation

Technologies and practices that can minimize the environmental impacts of site preparation.

Selection of Site to Allow Setback from Key Features

Sites should be selected so they are not located close to streams, residences, wetlands, water wells, schools, cave openings, or other sensitive environmental or geographic features. Most Fayetteville Shale wells are drilled directionally, with long extended-reach sections. Wellheads do not need to be located directly above the natural gas resources being produced. This allows much more flexibility in choosing an environmentally-friendly location for the surface facilities. Another benefit of directional drilling is that multiple wells can be drilled from a single well pad; therefore, the total number of drill pads in a field can be reduced.

Avoidance of Steep Slopes

When siting the well pad and pits, operators should avoid steep slopes where possible. Most lease tracts have areas with low to moderate slopes that can be preferentially selected. Erosion is more likely to create sedimentation of downhill waterways when the site is steeply sloped. As noted in the previous item, the use of directional drilling allows greater flexibility in selecting well pad sites.

Minimization of Disturbed Surface Area

Operators should attempt to disturb the smallest amount of surface area that still allows them to have safe access to and from the site and that provides sufficient well pad area for all of the equipment needed during well drilling and later during well stimulation (fracturing). In some cases site selection involves balancing competing factors. For example, a well pad site near a public road may present concerns because of its proximity to wetlands or a residence. Another nearby site offers fewer concerns, but would require an access road several times longer. In this example, more total surface area may be disturbed (combined area of pad, pits, and road) but the potential environmental impact is lower.

Stabilization of Pad and Road Surfaces

Once sites have been cleared and graded, they should be stabilized expeditiously with materials suitable to the end uses. Typically, disturbed areas are covered with gravel to a thickness capable of supporting heavy equipment traffic. Care should be taken to minimize degradation of stream habitat and water quality associated with increased sedimentation, turbidity, runoff, and erosion.

Use of Liners for Reserve Pits

Operators should construct reserve pits and other pits that are intended to store oily materials using suitable natural or synthetic liner material. When pits are designed to capture non-oily stormwater runoff, liners are not always needed. During times when pits are actively holding drilling fluids, cuttings, and other oily substances, fencing should be placed around the pit perimeters to keep livestock and wildlife from entering the pits.

Temporal and Spatial Offsets for Threatened and Endangered Species

Additional protection for threatened and endangered species can be provided by constructing sites in locations that avoid identified nesting or breeding locations or locations of populations of threatened or endangered species. Likewise, site preparation activities can be postponed to avoid certain times of the year, when threatened and endangered species are mating, nesting, or rearing young. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has proposed voluntary best management practices for protecting threatened and sensitive species. These are described on the site preparation regulatory requirements page.

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