GPRI presents awards in Disappearing Roads contest
COLLEGE STATION, Texas — Two teams selected as finalists from a year-long student competition have presented their reports at the Environmentally Friendly Drilling (EFD) Program Disappearing Roads Competition Finals and Awards Events. The teams, selected from university engineering departments across the United States, competed to create the best engineering design for a system of moving personnel and materials to and from oil or gas well drill sites with minimal or no impact on the environment. A key objective of the project was to improve the environmental awareness of understanding of engineers, and for environmental scientists to understand the technical challenges posed by access to well site areas. The university finalists for the 2008 competition were from the University of Wyoming and The Harold Vance Department of Petroleum Engineering at Texas A&M University. The University of Wyoming research team developed a layered mat, roll-out road system and a modular frame design. The concepts came from the need to minimize soil disruption and wildlife fragmentation in Jonah Field and Pinedale Anticline Production Area (PAPA) of the upper Green River Valley, Wyoming. Developed in cooperation with advisers from Bureau of Land Management and major upstream gas production companies, the submission provided testing procedures and engineering evaluations and contained detailed information used to develop the recommendations. The Texas A&M team presented the "Skylift System" designed to transport equipment and materials to drill sites in environmentally protected areas, with a focus on minimizing the environmental impact. In order to accomplish the development of a field within a protected area, the use of the skylift system, similar to those adopted in mining operations (where they are often referred to as aerial tramways) was proposed. This would be installed via helicopter or airship. Pairing the skylift system with pipelines to transport drilling and production fluids outside the area would significantly minimize the environmental impact, especially when compared to using a traditional road and provide a solution to the low impact issue that spans over the entire field life, ten to thirty years during the development phase. A panel of judges representing EFD sponsors chose the winning idea. The first-place award winner, the University of Wyoming, received a check for $20,000 while the Texas A&M team was second and received a check for $10,000. Judges for the event were representatives from the Natural Resources Defense Council, the U.S. Department of Energy NETL, the Rio Vista Bluff Ranch McFaddin, Texas, and the Houston Advanced Research Center (HARC). Halliburton Energy Services sponsored the competition and provided funding for the cash awards. Texas A&M and the Global Petroleum Research Institute (GPRI) hosted the event. Sponsors of the GPRI Environmentally Friendly Drilling program, the Crisman Institute, and the Research Partnership to Secure Energy for America (RPSEA) attended the event. GPRI is a petroleum exploration and production research cooperative between Texas A&M and the Texas Engineering Experiment Station (TEES), the engineering research agency of the State of Texas and a member of The Texas A&M University System.