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An overview of natural gas well pad surface disturbances and techniques used to increase reclamation success within the Vermillion Basin, Wyoming Public Deposited

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https://ir.library.oregonstate.edu/concern/graduate_projects/vq27zt60q

Graduation date: 2016

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  • The Vermillion Basin, located in southwest Wyoming is an inhospitable, high altitude desert with unique biota and environmental conditions. The area has a long history of usages by humans including recreation, livestock grazing and mineral development. The natural gas industry has had a strong presence in the area since the 1940s, resulting in thousands of acres being disturbed for construction of well pads, access roads and pipelines, and this industry significantly contributes to the local and state economy. The disturbances have severely effected local wildlife, vegetation, water flow, nutrient cycles and other factors necessary for the environment to properly function. To minimize these effects, when a gas well on federal land is no longer productive the site must be reclaimed. This is done by plugging the well, removing all production facilities and recontouring the surface to approximate predisturbance conditions. Past reclamation efforts have been marginally successful, due to many factors including poor topsoil care and invasions by noxious weeds. To help achieve successful and timely reclamation, many science based techniques can be used including proper predisturbance control measures, controlling invasive weeds, using properly controlled grazing, topsoil care (especially avoidance of unnecessary compaction) and nutrient amendments, use of reseed mixes containing drought and erosion resistant native species, use of controlled burns and careful monitoring of the site for erosion or other reclamation hampering factors. The harsh conditions in the Vermillion Basin make reclamation difficult but when the techniques outlined in this paper are utilized, successful reclamation timelines can be accelerated. This can help the Vermillion Basin repair its ecological cycles and functions and allow all other natural resources in the area to be sustained.
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