Old company has new impact

Rob Todor Dix Communications Published:

Drive by a typical gas or oil well site in Ohio and you will see a synthetic ground cover, usually colored green. You would probably be surprised to find out that its use is not only functional but eco-friendly as well.

American Engineered Fabrics, a 100-year-old company based in New Bedford, Mass., has made a substantial entrance into the gas and oil industry in the Utica Shale area.

Daniel Weinstein, the company’s president and Chief Executive Officer, is excited about the future for AEF as the industry expands.

He’s also proud of the eco-friendly component of the products his company produces.

“We’ve sent a large volume of product into Ohio and Western Pennsylvania,” says Weinstein. “If New York opens up the Marcellus Shale we expect to send product there in the future.”

A popular use for the AEF product is as a ground cover, or well pad, for the drilling area. It can also be used to secure nearby retention ponds, ensuring the prevention of hazardous materials from leeching into the ground.

The product — referred to as felt by contractors — is non-woven, meaning it is resistant to tears and can withstand extreme temperatures.

And it’s eco-friendly from start to finish. It’s produced from recycled green plastic soda bottles — and no additives or dyes are added.

“To quantify that,” says Weinstein, “one truckload of our product can save 300,000 bottles from the landfill.”

Also, companies that use the material qualify for LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) points.

“That’s a niche that we saw was not being served,” says Weinstein.

American Engineered Fabrics has long been a significant force in the oil industry, mostly in retention and spill and erosion control.

“We’ve produced pads and booms (to control spills) for quite some time,” says Weinstein. “We worked on the Exxon Valdez spill (in 1989) for example.

“We’ve always been environmentally-focused,” he continues. “We wanted to expand our products for traditional construction industries while at the same time offering something eco friendly.”

The feedback Weinstein has received from gas and oil companies tells him AEF is on the right track.

“Containment is not a big concern in Texas, for example, because the fields are in the middle of the desert,” says Weinstein. “But in Ohio and Pennsylvania they are leasing a lot of land close to homes and communities. In Ohio, for instance, the issue of containment moved from a standard best practice to mandated.

“A lot of the demand comes from its light color,” says Weinstein, “because the typical ground cover is black. Our green-colored fiber can reduce the head load by about 15 or 20 degrees in the spring and summer. That’s a big difference when you’re talking about a whole (rig) crew working on a 300 (feet) by 300, or 600 by 600 pad.”

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