Stewardship Series: Pad Drilling Decreases the Surface Footprint of Drilling Sites - 3/18/2015

For more than 50 years, the rise of new technologies and equipment has allowed the oil and natural gas industry to significantly reduce the environmental impact at drilling sites. New techniques have helped increase efficiency for producers while decreasing impacts to land.

The Houston Advanced Research Center, which is devoted to research on technologies and applications for environmental stewardship for the energy industry, came up with a list of standard practices in what they call Environmentally Friendly Drilling Systems. Their research found that most companies have a set of ‘best practices’ in place to reduce the surface footprint during oil and gas production. Many of these companies utilize pad drilling, or directional drilling, which allows multiple wells to be drilled from a single site.

Pad drilling has allowed producers to clear less areas of land. Horizontal pad sites that used to need 40 acres are now using only three to five acres. Using pad drilling also means fewer roads are needed to access the centralized site. Not only are fewer roads needed, some companies are testing “temporary” roads, including buildable and movable road segments and artificial gravel which can be plowed into the soil after the site is completed.

Beyond pad drilling, producers have increased the efficiency of the drilling process over the years, meaning fewer trucks making fewer trips through the property. This reduces noise and dust. And before they leave, companies also commonly practice soil amendment and reseeding to make sure natural grasses and vegetation return to normal after crews have left.

Careful design of production sites can increase efficiency and reduce the impact to the environment. This careful design extends to all facets of the industry and the environmental stewardship that has become a cornerstone of best practices in oil and natural gas production. In Oklahoma, those who work in the industry live here too and are fiercely protective of the land they call home.



Haut, R., Burnett,D. and Williams, T. (2012, January 1). Environmentally Friendly Drilling Systems Final Report. Retrieved March 13, 2015.