By Bryan Gee, Roadway Systems Product Manager, Tensar International As energy needs continue to grow globally, oil and gas developers are expanding to open new sites in remote areas. Creating access roads for these sites can be challenging, especially when the area is subject to weak subgrades and poor weather conditions. Left untreated, a weak subgrade exposed to continuous heavy traffic loads will quickly degrade, causing the surface to rut, pothole, “washboard,” and ultimately deteriorate beyond use. Overused roads around oil and gas fields have caught the attention of the industry, government officials, and residents. Many areas around booming oil and gas plays are struggling with growing pains, and officials see the need for dedicated road infrastructure that can withstand the heavy equipment used by oil and gas operators. Tensar International recognized the need for stronger infrastructure around oil and gas projects and is now working with the industry to build roads that can endure the heavy use. A major oil and gas developer in Clearfield County, Pa., faced the problem of deteriorating access roads. Heavy trucks exploring natural gas formations in the area made the existing access road, an unpaved forestry arterial maintained by the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR), unsuitable for traffic. The project owner needed an affordable way to restore the unpaved road and support year-round traffic volumes of up to 1,000 heavy-vehicle trips per day. Many secondary and rural roadways in Pennsylvania cannot support the heavy loads of equipment and water needed to develop shale gas wells. The access road in Clearfield County suffered from increased traffic, significant snowfall, “ice lensing,” and soft subgrade soils, which caused the road to deteriorate during the annual spring thaw cycle. The Clearfield County project owner used Tensar TriAx® Geogrid to create an unyielding and stable platform over 9.5 miles of weak access road soils. He selected the Tensar Geogrid option that incorporated one layer of Tensar TX7 Geogrid because the system allowed the contractor to bridge saturated and crumbling soils by placing the TriAx Geogrid directly on the existing grade. Geogrids reduce road construction costs, improve durability of site access roads, increase road safety, maintain road quality for ease in post-drilling production site-access, and allow construction in extreme cold climates. Using the Tensar system allowed the Pennsylvania crew to reduce the aggregate requirements, which saved the project owner an estimated $1.2 million in material and installation costs. Once in the ground, geogrids, made of polypropylene, will not degrade. If an oil site is being reevaluated or existing wells are being serviced in years to come, TriAx Geogrid stabilized roads will maintain aggregate confinement capabilities and continue to be reliable. “TriAx Geogrid is our first solution for soft subgrade issues,” said Jeff Osburn, the project manager for Glenn O. Hawbaker who oversaw the Clearfield County project. “It covers areas that can barely support equipment. It’s phenomenal how well it works.” More information about Tensar International and TriAx Geogrids is available.