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Adding Structure to Saturated Soils | Unpaved Roads

EnviroGrid® Geocell creates a solid foundation in even the most saturated soils, by adding strength and structure to once poor load-bearing material. EnviroGrid® is extremely valuable to construction and infrastructure based projects worldwide, as it allows the use of local material, which reduces construction and maintenance costs. This particular project showcases EnviroGrid, as it takes the most difficult of soil qualities and creates a road that is able to withstand heavy loads and traffic flows.


| Putumayo, Colombia

Ecopetrol, one of the principal petroleum companies in Latin America, has been expanding its reach deeper into the forests of Colombia. Drilling exploratory wells in remote locations such as Putumayo basin, concurs with a very aggressive growth strategy. The area around Orito is an extremely dense, undulating forest with poor soils and wet subgrades, making it nearly impossible to drive through without proper access.

THE CHALLENGE | Construct an Access Road on Soft Soils

Ecopetrol sought to build a 2.6 kilometer access road to a new well site in the middle of the jungle. The road would allow heavy machinery and drilling equipment to access the exploratory well site for production. The problems they ran into were fully saturated soils with CBRs of 0.5% that swallowed vehicles whole. Men sunk to above their knees. On top of the difficult operating conditions, the project was only given a 90 day deadline for completion.

DESIGN SOLUTION | EnviroGrid Geocell EGA 20 6inch / 8 inch

The EnviroGrid cellular confinement system was chosen by Ecopetrol engineers as a pilot project with a goal of reducing long-term costs. After analyzing several other products including geogrids, geotextiles, and rocks, they decided upon a cellular confinement system. Local river soils were utilized as an infill material, further reducing the cost of bring in outside material for fill.

CONSTRUCTION OVERVIEW | EnviroGrid® Installation

A 150mm (6 inch) or 200mm (8 inch) EGA20 material was utilized depending upon the depth of the foundation needed for different sections of the road. A geotextile fabric was placed directly on top of the soils and stakes were set up to anchor the EnviroGrid® panels. The panels were extended and filled with a mix of granular soils and river rock, followed by grading and vibrocompaction. Once the road itself was installed, channels were created on the sides to allow for lateral drainage.


The project was completed in a record time of 47 days ahead of schedule. Improving the timeline allowed Ecopetrol to begin exploratory drilling almost two months earlier than projected. With a permeable surface access road, infilled with local materials, environmental impact was kept to a minimum while reducing the dirtwork required. Time and costs for maintenance were decreased and road safety was improved through better surface water control.

Download Case Study Here:

CS Colombia Oil & Gas Haul Road
Download PDF • 1.87MB


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