Industry News

New Hybrid-Turf Instant Armor Mat combats erosion at energy facilities

April 14, 2021
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This article is sponsored by InstaTurf.

Soil erosion can wreak havoc on large industrial sites, but especially when the soil is meant as a safety precaution. A new solution was recently used to combat soil erosion at a Pennsylvania natural gas facility with a containment area built to capture oil if it is spilt so it can be burned before spreading. Last year the center had to dig up parts of it to repair pipes near the surface, leading to site deterioration.

The containment pond slopes contained about six inches of valuable topsoil and not far beneath that lay gas pipes that were best left undisturbed. A representative with erosion control and stormwater products distributor ACF Environmental was called in to suggest ways to mitigate existing damage and protect against future erosion.

“They needed to find a solution to restabilize the slopes without undercutting. They wanted a solution to just lay on top of this soil,” said Del Fuller, Geo Product Specialist in Erosion Control for ACF. “They also were looking for a product that would give them vegetation to provide a good aesthetic.”

ACF Environmental suggested a Hybrid-Turf Instant Armor Mat made with simulated turf called ShearForce10 for immediate erosion protection and permanent slope stabilization. Held down by pins or sod staples, it immediately holds soil in place. Seed it before pinning it down and the natural vegetation grows up through its synthetic turf structure, providing additional erosion control. The ShearForce10’s synthetic turf structure then reinforces the natural vegetation for increased long-term erosion resistance. This solution promised the site could retain its green campus. 

In the fall of last year, 24,840 square feet of ShearForce10 was installed, covering slopes with 35% to 40% grades. The project took about a week to complete. The first step was to ensure the sloped surfaces were flat so that the product had good intimacy with the soil. This would allow rye and fescue seeds to easily sprout through the simulated turf. After the site was seeded, the product was laid and anchored on top. 

“It was a very easy installation for them. All they had to do was roll it out and pin it down. And, again, vegetation was a high priority for them in using this product, as well as immediate stabilization,” Fuller said. “This was a maintenance job where the slope had previously failed so it was a great, quick fix for them, while providing permanent stability for the slope.”

Maintenance of the site featuring ShearForce10 also promises to be easy, as the product can last forever without upgrade or replacement. Grasses that grow through the mat can be mowed just like a lawn would be. 

As such, the product can be useful throughout an industrial campus to mitigate erosion.  For example, ShearForce10 was used at two Virginia transformer substations last year, after owners decided that riprap would be onerous to install at areas suffering from soil erosion. 

At one substation, sections of its outfall channels were deteriorating after the conventional turf reinforcement mat (TRM) and sod that once lined them were washed away by stormwater. The station installed 13,000 square feet of ShearForce10 in the channels. Five days after the maintenance project was completed, a tropical storm hit the area, dumping more than four inches of rainfall and filling the channels with stormwater discharge, but the channel soil remained fixed by the ShearForce10. 

At a second station, the walls of a sediment basin faced scouring issues and were unstable. Within a few hours, 9,000 square feet of ShearForce10 was installed in what the owner deemed critical areas of the basin. 

“Two days later, an afternoon storm hit the site, dropping two inches of rain within six hours. And the product held up nicely,” said Fuller. “We’ve seen a lot of success with this product at energy sites, in a variety of settings.” 

Areas featuring steep slopes with substantial overland flow are good candidates for installation of the product. It's also a good option on slopes that feature shallow pipes, which could make erosion especially problematic and digging to solve the problem potentially onerous. ShearForce10 is a product of St. Louis-based Grassworx.