Environmental impact assessments prepared for proposed oil and gas developments frequently dismiss the potential impacts arising from the wastes generated by a project as being insignificant. They typically indicate that wastes will be managed at suitable approved or licensed facilities – often overlooking the fact that in many countries there simply aren't any ‘suitable’ waste management facilities for the range of wastes that will be generated – at least none that can meet recognised international standards for health and safety or environmental protection.
This paper discusses the challenges that oil and gas companies face when operating in countries that do not have an established waste management infrastructure and how they should fulfil their obligations to ensure that their wastes are managed responsibly. Practical logistical options for managing wastes generated by exploration and production operations are discussed including pre-treatment of waste, developing in-house waste treatment facilities, working with existing waste contractors to help raise standards to an acceptable level and export of waste.
Each of these options has its advantages and disadvantages and each has its place in ensuring that a company's wastes are managed safely, effectively and in accordance with good international practice.