S.A. Marinello, SPE, Newpark Resources, Inc., B.F. Herbert, Amoco E, H & S, H. Lillo, Alberta Energy and Utilities Board, S. Curtice, Texaco Inc., C.L. Stark, SPE, Consultant, R. Redweick, SPE, Shell Oil Co., J.D. Mohrbacher, Radian Corp. and M. Rubin, SPE, API


If a beneficial reuse of an oilfield waste can be found, that specific byproduct is no longer a waste, but a product. With such downstream use, the environmental liabilities of the former waste are, except for any packaging or transportation requirements, potentially eliminated.

There is a problem, however, with the lack of an active infrastructure to implement the process. Some states have limited programs, but participation is a problem. It is apparent that a "Waste Clearinghouse" addressing oilfield waste in conjunction with major industrial waste and feed streams is needed, but implementation remains in the future. An active network of participating suppliers and users would be the goal of such action. In order to establish the network, it might be necessary to lobby for modified legislation to provide economic motivation, perhaps through modified taxation, and to affect liability issues. The benefits for industry would be a reduction in waste disposal and associated liabilities and "virgin" feedstock requirements.

From the operators viewpoint, this scenario would require a compilation of the different waste/byproduct streams and their characteristics and a prioritizing of those wastes by characteristics that might affect their reuse potential. These might include:

  1. the greatest likelihood of finding a market;

  2. the highest potential waste volume reduction;

  3. the highest cost of disposal and

  4. the greatest associated hazards.

For the industry as a whole, an inventorying of these byproducts and characteristics would be tied to the identification of consumers/outlets for specific byproducts. This might be accomplished through the funding of consultants/contractors specializing in clearinghouse activities and/or research into potential applications and uses.

The industry needs to change it's view of waste/byproduct streams in order to be more aware of potential downstream uses. Existing examples of reuse can be used as models for further efforts.


In July of 1994, at the SPE Forum Series in North America held at Snowmass, Colorado, a forum was held on "Pollution Prevention For Exploration and Production Operations" During that meeting, after considerable discussion, an attempt was made to allow for in depth "breakout group" discussions of those topics that the participants viewed as the most timely, problematical and worthy of their time. One such group, comprised of the authors of this paper, was mandated to discuss beneficial reuse options in the industry, focusing on potential uses outside of traditional industry bounds.

It was immediately clear that no known active network was in place to implement such activities. An active "waste clearinghouse" was deemed the necessary entity and the probable need for modifying legislation in order to achieve this goal was recognized.

It was also recognized that the principal problems associated with such an effort at the operators level included the identification of waste streams with the potential for conversion to reuse products and finding those potential consumers. This would require prioritization of waste streams based on chemical characteristics, potential reuse markets, highest potential reduction in waste volume and highest potential reduction in disposal cost and liability, particularly in the long term.

It was decided that, in order to facilitate the desired developments, an evaluation of present related activities should be performed and a paper presented on those findings, regardless of the limited existing reuse operations. The goal of this effort is to provide information to the E & P sector and to stimulate further discussion and action involving the expansion of reuse operations and opportunities thereby reducing the overall volumes of waste streams and associated disposal costs and liabilities for the industry.

Identifying Potential Wastes Streams for Reuse

In considering potential reuse, it should be understood that a material becomes a product and is therefore not a waste when it has been processed so that it can be used as a substitute for a commercial product.

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