Apache, Borderlands Partner in Well Pad Restoration Research Project

An oil rig in the desert as Apache Corporation Partners with Borderlands Research Institute on Well Pad Restoration Research Project in the Permian Basin

(Credit: Pixabay)

by | Dec 12, 2023

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Apache Corporation, a subsidiary of oil and gas exploration and production company APA, has partnered with the Borderlands Research Institute (BRI) at Sul Ross State University in Alpine, Texas, in a well pad restoration research project.

The project aims to show oil and gas operators in the Permian how changes in restoring end-of-service well pads can benefit local biodiversity and habitats.

The study will investigate methods to improve wildlife restoration efforts in the Permian Basin, which is the highest oil-producing field in the United States. Researchers at BRI and Texas Native Seeds, a project of the Caesar Kleberg Wildlife Research Institute at Texas A&M Kingsville, plan to publish their findings as a science-backed, best practices reclamation document to be shared with other Permian operators.

Desert Ecosystem

The area is also situated in the Chihuahuan Desert, which is essential for local food production, recreation, tourism, and cultural assets. Desert ecosystems are one of the most imperiled in the world, and there is much to uncover in the Chihuahuan Desert with respect to a habitat restoration study.

“We all depend on the energy produced in the Permian Basin to power our lives, and we look forward to bringing valuable science to the table to support enhanced restoration practices in the energy industry,” Louis Harveson, the Dan Allen Hughes, Jr. endowed director of BRI, said in a statement. 

Currently, wells at the end of their service are plugged, the equipment is removed and the pad is eventually reseeded and allowed to return to its natural state. The project will accelerate the return to nature through alternative soil preparation techniques, adding biochar to improve soil fertility and using scrub brush as a vegetative cover to protect the soil and seeds.

“We are honored to partner with the Borderlands Research Institute on this important effort, which aligns with our mission to meet the growing demand for energy and to do so in a cleaner, more sustainable way,” Jessica Jackson, Apache’s vice president of environment, health and safety, said in a statement. “For many years, Apache has worked to restore well pads to their habitat potential. To further our efforts to continuously improve, Apache is supporting scientific research at sites in the Permian Basin to study the efficacy of methods for habitat restoration.”

The project will also measure increases in soil carbon to passively sequester carbon in healthy desert soils and support student research at Sul Ross State University through BRI. 

The project comes as the oil and gas industry is ramping up some climate change efforts, including supporting carbon capture and storage technology. However, critics have stated that these plans don’t change fossil fuel consumption and reduce emissions. In addition, carbon capture efforts may be falling short of climate change recommendations. 

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