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Project Name: Algerian Sahara Desert & Canadian Oil Sands Region

Road construction in any desert or sandy soil area can be a formidable undertaking, especially if the site is remote with no acceptable fill material. The GEOWEB® Cellular Confinement System provided a successful method for confining the sand and making it stable, allowing repeated passes by heavy, loaded vehicles.


Both the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and U.S. Desert Storm forces found a solution for building fast
access roads across sandy terrain with the GEOWEB Geocells. By utilizing the principle of soil confinement to enhance soil strength, the GEOWEB System turns sand into a load-supporting composite structure that can support heavy vehicle loads under repeated load cycles.

Building sand roads with the GEOWEB system was well-proven through a U.S. military exercise known as JLOTS
II (Joint Logistics Over-the-Shore) conducted by the USACE Waterways Experiment Station. This military exercise constructed sand roads using the GEOWEB system and applied thousands of traffic cycles by 100 rubber-tired military vehicles of various wheel loads.


An American oil company wanted to access four drilling sites located 497 miles (800 kilometers) south of the Mediterranean Sea coast and 99 miles (160 kilometers) from the nearest village. Transporting both construction equipment and suitable building materials would be difficult and expensive. Asphalt roads were not a viable option because of the high costs associated with mobilization to these remote locations and the local rates of installation. In the desert sand, rubber-tired vehicles became bogged since the sand alone offered little support. Considering the task, the oil company decided to build a test road with the sand-filled GEOWEB system.

Testing Performance:

After the GEOWEB system was installed and filled with the local sand using a front-end loader, it was tested using 40-ton and 80-ton gross weight trucks. A 40-ton Haliburton truck completed the first 4,000 passes of traffic. The road performed very well with sustained traffic speeds of 35 mph, which was excellent considering the conditions.

One-thousand additional traffic passes were made using 80-ton trucks. The total traffic count was 5,000 passes with no deterioration in the performance of the road. Following the test, additional GEOWEB sections were ordered to build a 15-kilometer (9-mile) road to access the first drilling site.


A dozer leveled the sand to prepare the roadbase. Each 8’ x 20’ x 8” GEOWEB section was expanded and held in place with sand in perimeter cells, then adjoining sections connected.




A front-end loader filled the GEOWEB cells with the desert sand and used the infilled sections as a platform to fill adjoining sections. Rubber-tired construction equipment and trucks were used to compact the sand infill, keeping installation time to a minimum.




Canadian oil producers employ the GEOWEB® system on their access roads and drilling pads to reduce expensive aggregate and operational maintenance requirements.

Overcoming Challenges

Design and construction challenges include supporting heavy loads exceeding 125,000 lbs. (15,000 lbs. wheel loads) over very soft subgrades of muskeg and saturated clay. The road solution needs to be constructible in sub-zero temperatures and hold up to heavy rig and truck traffic even during the spring thaw, which completely degrades what little strength these subgrades have.

Proven Performance

Numerous roadways and drilling pads have been built utilizing the Presto GEOWEB® system, and all are performing to expectations. The GEOWEB® system reduces the typical cross-section from 5 feet (1.5 m) to less than 12 inches (300 mm), saving the customers money and conserving local resources by utilizing local sand for infill.




The GEOWEB system is weather-resistant and can be installed in virtually any weather condition, even when the ground is frozen or the rain is falling.

The GEOWEB solution is fast to deploy and install, helping to keep costs down even in the most difficult site conditions.



GEOWEB System’s Big-Screen Debut

The GEOWEB system made its Hollywood debut in the 1994 sci-fi action-adventure movie, Stargate. To serve as the desert landscape in the film, filmmakers chose the barren setting surrounding Yuma, Arizona. However, very loose sands at the film location made transportation around the site virtually impossible. Crews used the GEOWEB system to create an “instant road,” using on-site sand as the infill, that allowed vehicles and heavy equipment to move around the desert with no rutting or loss of traction.

Director Roland Emmerich stated, “We never would have been able to move around the desert without [GEOWEB].”