New Directions in Environmental Protection in Oil and Gas Operations
- R.L. Arscott (Chevron Corp.)
- Document ID
- Society of Petroleum Engineers
- Journal of Petroleum Technology
- Publication Date
- April 1989
- Document Type
- Journal Paper
- 337 - 342
- 1989. Society of Petroleum Engineers
- 4.1.2 Separation and Treating, 4.2 Pipelines, Flowlines and Risers, 4.1.5 Processing Equipment, 5.6.5 Tracers, 3 Production and Well Operations, 4.5 Offshore Facilities and Subsea Systems, 2.4.3 Sand/Solids Control, 6.5.2 Water use, produced water discharge and disposal, 5.1.1 Exploration, Development, Structural Geology, 1.6 Drilling Operations, 1.6.9 Coring, Fishing, 4.2.3 Materials and Corrosion, 1.11 Drilling Fluids and Materials, 6.5.5 Oil and Chemical Spills, 6.5.1 Air Emissions, 2.7.1 Completion Fluids, 6.5.3 Waste Management
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Since the passage of the Natl. Environmental Protection Act in 1970, the oil and gas industry has made tremendous progress in developing techniques, procedures, and less toxic materials for the protection of human health and the environment. The toxicity of drilling fluids and their disposal are tightly controlled to minimize the effect on the environment. Waste management programs are becoming more common to reduce the generation of waste and to recycle waste products. Numerical models are available to simulate discharge dispersion in marine environments. Toxicologists have produced a large data base on the effect of toxicants in the environment, and more information is being developed on their effect on native aquatic species and on the complete food chain. Cooperative agreements between industry, government agencies, environmental groups, and others to develop acceptable mitigation procedures are becoming more popular.
The enactment of the Natl. Environmental Protection Act of 1970 was the beginning of an explosion of environmental regulations in the U.S. The 14 major federal statutes passed between 1970 and 1980 (e.g., the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act) were designed to protect the health and safety of people and to protect the environment. These major statutes have, in turn, generated thousands of pages of regulations, at both federal and state levels. Many of these statutes affect oil and gas E and P operations; particular concerns are emissions to the air, discharge of drilling fluid and produced water to land or water, disposal of various solid and liquid wastes, and protection of flora and fauna. In 1985. onshore oil and gas operations in the U.S. produced about 21 billion bbl [3.34 x 10 to the 9th m3] of produced water, 360 million bbl [57.24 x 10 to the 6th m3 ] of drilling fluid, and 12 million bbl [1.91 X 10 to the 6th m3] of associated wastes (e.g., oily wastes, emulsions, and workover fluids). Millions of barrels of crude oil are transported by tanker around the world's oceans or by pipelines over land and under the sea, posing a potential threat to the environment in the event of a spill. Many of our operations occur in remote areas where protecting wildlife, particularly endangered species, and minimizing damage to the environment are very important. This paper describes the current activities and new directions in disposal of drilling fluids, produced water, and other oilfield wastes to protect human health and the environment. Special attention is paid to the protection of wildlife and fishery resources and progress in cooperative agreements between the oil and gas industry, the fishing industry, native groups, government agencies, and environmental groups.
Offshore Disposal of Drilling Fluids
Generic Mud Concept. Offshore operations in the U.S. have two alternatives for the disposal of drilling fluids and cuttings: (1) discharge from the drilling vessel or platform under existing government regulations or (2) the collection and transport of the materials to the shore. Most operators prefer the first choice because it is less expensive and will adequately protect the environment. Permits initially were issued under the Natl. Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) on a well-by-well basis, but since the early 1980's, general permits using a generic mud concept have been issued for most Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) regions.
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