Brad Uggerslev: Making an impact by reducing our impact
The “Us” in Cenovus
June 2022 - Remember being a kid and playing with trucks at the beach? Working for hours under the sun, digging and hauling sand to build a castle, only for the water to eventually wash it away. According to Brad Uggerslev, Senior Coordinator, Earthworks at Cenovus Energy, that’s what it can feel like to work in civil earthworks – only the infrastructure we build needs to last a lot longer than a few hours!
“The science and engineering that go into constructing roads and well pads for our operations are far more significant than many people realize,” Brad explains. “Our infrastructure needs to hold up for decades, so a significant amount of planning and consideration goes into our work.”
Brad manages earthworks at our Foster Creek oil sands operation and oversees on-the-ground teams to create plans that help us work toward our safety, cost, quality and scheduling targets. With 15 years’ experience in planning and execution, Brad brings valuable insight to his role by drawing on the successes and challenges of past projects.
“We’re continually looking for opportunities to reduce our footprint and are working with our teams to try new tools, procedures and engineering designs,” says Brad. “Recently, we were able to reduce the amount of land we use for our winter well pads, which are areas of land cleared to house observation wellheads on a ‘pad’ above our wells.”
Every winter at our oil sands operations, we run a drilling program to identify and establish new observation wells. Once drilling is complete and the equipment has been moved off site, new wells enter a maintenance phase that lasts for many years. Once in this phase, the amount of land needed for the well pad is reduced significantly. Brad and his team saw this as an opportunity to create a new maintenance well pad design with a smaller footprint which would also allow for reclamation to begin sooner.
After sketching the requirements with the planning and design team, they presented the design to the well delivery and surface land teams and were able to move forward with it. In the past, we would have kept the entire segment of land for the full lifecycle of the observation well. But with the new design, the footprint of our well pads in the maintenance phase are 60% smaller. This has a huge impact on reducing our overall footprint when you consider the hundreds of new wells drilled each season.
We used the new design during the 2021/2022 winter drilling program at our Foster Creek and Sunrise operations, and the team has plans to implement the design at more of our oil sands locations in the 2022/2023 season.
“These wells will be around for years, but the new design allows us to occupy less land over time. And by reducing the size of the well pads after drilling is done, the land can start naturally regenerating and returning to its pre-disturbance state sooner in the well lifecycle.”
For Brad, this focus on sustainability isn’t just part of his job – it’s personal.
“Sustainability matters to me, not only because I want to do the right thing today, but because I also want to ensure my kids have the same opportunities as I did,” says Brad. “The oil and natural gas industry is full of incredible people, ideas, an entrepreneurial spirit and a willingness to do better. I see that drive and spirit to make things better every day at Cenovus.”