A Creative Approach to Reclaiming Abandoned Strip Mines
Engineers are often tasked with solving difficult problems with limited time and budgets. This technical brief provides an overview of how a team of engineers collaborated to find the optimum solution to reclaim and compact the soils of a strip mining site for re-use as in developing a new gas processing plant in Eastern Ohio. The engineers performed environmental and geotechnical studies and considered the client’s future needs in developing a unique site preparation process to treat the deep mining spoils that were unsuitable for construction. The evaluation process, the alternatives considered, and the final solution are discussed.
The EPA estimates that more than 500,000 abandoned mine sites are located throughout the United States. Redevelopment provides an opportunity to turn these sites into beneficial uses. The abandoned strip mining sites in north eastern United States can be good locations for large industrial such as natural gas processing plants, storage yards and warehouse or distribution projects. The environmental impact of developing these sites is minimal as they have already been impacted by the strip mining operations.
Site development challenges in reclaimed strip mines include:
- Uncontrolled strip mine spoils up to 100 feet deep that prohibit the use of traditional building and pad foundations
- Mine fill laden with boulders which presented another unique set of problems
- Compressed construction schedules to meet client needs and weather windows.
- Variable facility requirements for different areas of the site development; foundations, vehicular traffic, parking, storage and support services
In addition to the physical site challenges, energy companies often face an extremely competitive market where speed-to-market and timing are critical to financial success. This speed-to-market often leads to the design and build schedules overlapping which further complicate the site development by requiring the site development team to be flexible and adjust to changing designs concurrently with site development activities.
The primary geotechnical objective was to develop a solution that mitigated settlement risk to the proposed structures but the site solution also required the following critically important considerations:
- Flexibility for unknown subsurface conditions
- Overlapping design and site preparation schedules
- Flexibility for modifying the plant layout
- Risk and dependability of the foundation system
- Cost parameters
Due to the fast-track nature of the project, the Joe Knows Energy team was working only with a general plant layout which could and did change during mass grading and site preparation.
The Joe Knows Energy design team consisted of civil, geotechnical and environmental engineers, contractors and site developers working collaboratively to develop a strategic approach to address the physical site conditions, an aggressive construction schedule and design requirements that were yet to be defined.
Members of the Joe Knows Energy design team were selected based on previous experiences working together. Team members had demonstrated a high level of trust in one another, an affinity for working collaboratively, the ability to provide continuous communication on their respective responsibilities and a willingness to provide direct and timely feedback to teammates.
This collaborative and coordinated approach resulted in measurable benefits to the project including:
- Costly mistakes were avoided
- Demonstration foundation alternative tested on-site
- Sequencing work to accommodate concurrent design and construction
- Adjusting the design as more factors became known
The design solution to strengthen the existing loose mining fills was developed in the following stages:
- Site research and preliminary borings
- Clarification of design requirements and decision factors
- Geotechnical evaluation, cost comparisons and schedule assessment
- Solution selection
- Review of outcomes and results
The Joe Knows Energy design team working collaboratively with the client to produce significant and measurable benefits including:
- Selection of Deep Dynamic Compaction as the most viable and cost-effective method to address redevelopment of abandoned strip mine sites
- Specifically focused on ensure that provides proper site preparation and structure support was created that met the clients facility needs
- Adjustments in the site elevation and plant footprint occurred without disruption to the design process and allowed the elevation of the site to achieve dirt balance while considering a larger plant footprint and the shrinkage of soil due to DDC operations
- Site redevelopment occurred within 14 weeks while design of the facility was being completed
- Many design changes occurred but costly mistakes such as performing foundation preparation in areas that ultimately did not need it were avoided due to the team’s continuous communication
- The project team sharing progress and design direction on a frequent basis which allowed for some areas of the site preparation work to be delayed while the impact of design alternatives were more thoroughly considered
- Alternative design solutions in the tower/vertical constructionareas and other deep foundations included excavating to the depths of the foundations and
performing the deep dynamic compaction at those elevations.
About Joe Knows Energy
America has been given a great gift; the natural resources to provide the fuel for its growth with the Oil and Gas Utica Shale Play in Ohio. Joe Knows Energy wants to help America “Do it Right”! Joe Knows Energy is passionate about Building America’s Future by helping Oil and Gas Companies with needs associated with Project Management, Logistics, Applied Technologies, and more.
We help the Energy Industry harvest this God given gift by providing Infrastructure and Site Solutions and doing it the right way! Over the past year our “Team of Joe’s” has helped industry mitigate its top concerns and fears:
- Accidents- Safety has to be #1 to make sure everyone gets home safe every night!
- Delays- Regulations need to be managed
- Surprises- Resources need to be available
At Joe Knows Energy we believe it starts with Leadership that is focused all on doing it the right way. Followed closely by having the right team of hard working “Joes” that are easy to work with, knowledgeable, and solution oriented. Resulting in a team that is Safe, Responsive, Scalable and Easy to Use which ultimately drives positive financial impacts for everyone involved
Joe Knows Energy might not be a fit for everyone; but for those who we do fit – We would Love to Help You Build Yours’ and America’s Future! Joe Knows Energy provides comprehensive infrastructure and site solutions, project management, logistics and applied technologies for oil and gas energy companies throughout the Midwest.