Farming for future generations
Shell has helped a neighbouring community build better lives as part of work to decommission a gas project in China.
After Shell’s 2016 decision to exit the Jinqiu tight gas exploration project in the Sichuan province, southwest China, the company worked to safely restore the area used for drilling wells.
The land was turned into productive arable fields for the neighbouring community. Project materials were also recycled to pave a local road and build eight irrigation systems.
Restoration in this way is an important part of our decommissioning work when a project reaches the end of its lifecycle.
Restoring the land
Shell started to drill appraisal wells in Jinqiu back in 2010, but decided to exit six years later due to challenging geology.
“Villagers living around our well site were not concerned whether the well was technically or economically successful,” says Bill Li, who led Shell’s work with the community in Jinqiu. “What was important to them was they could harvest again from the land that would be returned.”
After extensive consultation with land owners and local authorities on how best to restore the site, Shell began by planting vegetables, including green beans. The roots of the beans lock nitrogen in the soil to increase the fertility of land. This helped the local population - made up mainly of elderly people, women and children – to more easily reap an early harvest.
We also reused top soil from ponds dug for fish farming, an additional source of income for villagers.
Restoring the land
Before: what the well site in Jinqui, southwest China, initially looked like
During: The restoration work in progress
After: How the well site looked following restoration
Evergreen: The well site - now with vegetables growing
Shell's environmental advisor, Wu Xiaolei, collected land and cement samples from the project to test if they were safe for recycling.
“Unrecycled crushed cement would be considered construction waste. We wanted to turn waste into something useful,” says Xiaolei.
Every well site was estimated to produce 8,000 tonnes of crushed cement, bricks and gravel. These materials were reused to strengthen dirt roads, improve embankments and reinforce ditches.
Zuo Tian Ming, a Jinqiu community leader, says: “Villagers in remote locations previously had to walk through muddy roads every day. Now they are paved with the crushed concrete and gravel, people are able to get home without mud on their shoes.”
Last year, Jinqiu farmers reaped a strong harvest and transported food more securely on the newly built roads, a lasting legacy for future generations.
Yuan Bihua, who led the Shell team responsible for the construction in Sichuan, adds: “Recognition from villagers confirms that we are doing the right thing. We will follow this path and continue our efforts.”
Decommissioning is part of the normal lifecycle of every oil and gas structure and must be done safely and responsibly.