Oil and gas companies, as responsible multi-nationals, have high operating standards and detailed internal procedures. They recognise the importance of environmental protection and must ensure any risks to the environment are minimised. Due to the nature of their operations, they are also open to public scrutiny and subject to close watch by Non-Governmental Organisations.

However, oil and gas companies often find that there is a lack of facilities able to manage their wastes appropriately in the environmentally developing countries in which they operate. Furthermore, past waste management practices may have resulted in a legacy of abandoned pipelines, wastes and contaminated land.

Although measures may be implemented to minimise the amount of waste generated and to maximise recycling, inevitably a range of wastes will need to be treated or disposed. There are several methods of managing wastes from the extraction and processing of oil and gas (eg drill cuttings, some solid wastes and liquid wastes) including:

  • stabilisation/solidification;

  • biological treatment;

  • thermal treatment;

  • subsurface disposal; and

  • engineered landfill.

In terms of the contractual arrangements for managing wastes, oil and gas companies are also faced with a number of options:

  • working with local municipalities to help them upgrade existing facilities to acceptable standards;

  • develop their own new facilities;

  • contract out waste management to specialist local service providers; and

  • export the waste to countries where there are existing facilities of the required standard.

Each of these technology and contractual options has its own advantages and disadvantages and the optimum solution will be dependant on the waste arisings and local circumstances. The arrangements must be integrated into a company's environmental policy, meet in-country legislative requirements and must be acceptable in terms of timing and cost. Inevitably a combination of technologies will be required to handle the range of wastes generated.

This paper examines in more detail the issues that need to be considered when a company chooses how it will manage its wastes – making the right decision is important as the wrong choice can result in excessive operational costs and potential on-going liabilities. As an example, savings of approximately US$500,000 were identified for a recent gas development project.

You can access this article if you purchase or spend a download.