From well sites to water collection systems and disposal facilities across the U.S., salt in produced waters and waste residues has affected agricultural and range soils and shallow groundwater. Increasing concerns about these effects by producers, surface owners, trustees, and regulatory agencies suggest the need for realistic approaches to assessment and management of saline materials generated by the oil and gas industry. Salt impact assessment and management approaches have received much attention by agriculturalists, especially in irrigated desert regions, and these methods and tools can be adapted to the unique needs of the oil and gas industry.
This paper demonstrates salt assessment and management principles as applied to a typical site. Rapid quantification of the environmental setting and extent of impacts, using tools such as electromagnetic inductance (EM), accurately and inexpensively provides the basis for management decisions. Reclamation goals are then determined, accounting for the resource capability classification of soils and groundwater and the effects of local agricultural practices. Site specific reclamation alternatives are evaluated, supported by simple laboratory treatability screening of standard and innovative soil amendments. These efforts and associated cost analysis provide a basis for the development of an appropriate reclamation plan. Remedy selection attempts to optimize costs by taking maximum advantage of site conditions, natural forces, and time. Reclamation then results in return of the land to agricultural production.