Atkanolamines are commonly used by the natural gas industry to remove acid gases from the natural gas stream. At gas processing plants that use alkanolamines for acid gas removal (AGR), spills and the on-site management of wastes containing alkanolamines and their associated sludges have commonly resulted in subsurface contamination that is presently the focus of some environmental concern. Research has been conducted by the Energy & Environmental Research Center that examines the subsurface transport and fate of the most commonly used alkanolamines, namely, monoethanolamine (MEA), di- iethanolamine (DEA), and methyldiethanolamine (MDEA), and process-derived sludge from AGR units that utilize each of those compounds. Experimental activities were conducted that can be grouped into three areas: 1) qualitative, semiquantitative, and quantitative characterization of alkanolamine-derived sludges; 2) investigations of the interactions of MEA, DEA, and MDEA with soils; and 3) activities investigating the biodegradability of MEA, DEA, MDEA, and associated sludges. Characterization of the sludges was performed using gas chromatography coupled with mass spectroscopy (GC-MS). In order to examine the potential effects of different soil types on subsurface transport and fate, investigations of interactions between alkanolamines and soil and of biodegradation of alkanolamines and process- derived sludges were performed using soils collected from Louisiana, New Mexico, and Alberta. These areas were selected to represent not only three unique soil types, but also to represent three regions of North America that produce an abundance of "sour" natural gas. The results of this research provide the natural gas industry with data and insights that will enable them to 1) significantly improve the assessment of subsurface alkanolamine-related contamination where it is known or suspected to occur and 2) make soundly based decisions concerning the remediation of that contamination.

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