EFD: Reducing the Oil & Gas Environmental Footprint

2013 Burnett EFD testing and video

The Environmentally Friendly Drilling Program (EFD) is working to reduce the environmental footprint of oil and gas operations in unconventional gas shale development. Texas A&M manages the Western Regional Center for EFD. The Center has established various test sites in the Eagle Ford Formation, a major unconventional shale play in Texas.  A temporal study is being conducted in DeWitt Co. Texas, a county experiencing intense drilling activity in the Eagle Ford shale. Recently the Global Petroleum Research Institute (GPRI) and Texas A&M’s Institute of Renewable Natural Resources, along with Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service arranged to have their most recent trial filmed.

The study is being performed to evaluate the possible environmental impact of oil and gas operations just across the fence line of a landowner’s property just east of Cheapside, Texas. Every three months, researchers go to the site and take air, water, and soil samples which they analyze for possible contamination. This effort is part of a larger program to identify new analytical techniques and field operational practices that industry is adopting to lower the environmental impact of drilling and production in sensitive ecosystems.

In the Eastern U.S., EFD is working with the U.S. Department of Energy National Energy Technology Laboratory (DOE NETL) to perform baseline monitoring field tests. Environmental monitoring includes air emissions, ground water, erosion/sedimentation, wildlife impacts and landscape changes. West Virginia University students work side-by-side with NETL, augmenting the ongoing monitoring effort.

The field tests and case studies programs implement these concepts. Specifically, the following items are being addressed:

  • Baseline Monitoring
  • Air Quality, Noise and Lighting
  • Water and Waste Stream
  • Pits/Impoundments
  • Air Emissions – Sensors
  • Air Emissions – Fuel Usage


David Burnett, technical director for GPRI, is a TEES associate research scientist for the Harold Vance Department of Petroleum Engineering. His work on water filtration and testing is mentioned in the film. He is deeply concerned with the wastewater created during the drilling process and has been instrumental in the development of membrane technology to treat it. He will be holding a two-day short course on Water/Wastewater at Texas A&M in April 2014, demonstrating the water field trials and testing shown in the film. The course will also cover areas such as pretreatment technologies, well wastewater processing for reuse, membrane filtration technologies, and cleaning systems.

More information on GPRI, Environmentally Friendly Drilling, and the Water/Wastewater Short Courses can be found on the GPRI website.