Emissions, Effluents and the Engineer
- H.H. Meredith Jr. (Humble Oil And Refining Co.)
- Document ID
- Society of Petroleum Engineers
- Journal of Petroleum Technology
- Publication Date
- July 1968
- Document Type
- Journal Paper
- 673 - 675
- 1968. Society of Petroleum Engineers
- 6.5.2 Water use, produced water discharge and disposal
- 2 in the last 30 days
- 144 since 2007
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The growing concern over pollution control in the U. S. increasingly has placed the engineer in the role of problem solver. It is no longer feasible for the engineer to view problems of disposal of salt water, hydrogen sulfide, well-testing fluids and excess products in a process system as purely technological and economical matters. The active role of engineers in pollution control is discussed.
There was a time when a blossoming black cloud from a gas plant products flare brought only a feeling of sympathy at the loss in revenue the operator was sustaining. Also there was perhaps a friendly hope that the operator could soon cure his process upset. Today the same black cloud brings to many a variety of feelings. First, there is a sharp regret that, along with the suffering of a monetary loss by the operator, our industry image also is suffering a loss. Second comes a frustration that the operator either does not know about the availability of smokeless flare tips or is unwilling to contribute to an improved industry image to the extent of the appreciable installation cost. Third comes a sense of regret that the operator is apparently unaware of what the public is being told by newspapers, radio and television that the nation should support strict laws and regulations to prevent such occurrences. The resulting rules probably will require not only smokeless flares but other costly and constrictive restraints aimed in good faith, but probably with questionable reality at assuring that no act affecting the real or imagined public welfare can be committed with impunity.
This is a small example, of possibly doubtful worth, of the way things are changing. I have not used this hypothetical case to promote smokeless flares as a solution to gas plant operating problems. This might be like treating athlete's foot by amputating at the ankle! Location of plant, frequency of upsets, process modifications and a host of alternate solutions are involved.
This illustration is intended to bring into focus society's heightened demand for a greater sense of responsibility in matters of conservation. It points out the importance of our accountability to our neighbor, and the public in general, as well as to company stockholders. And it promotes the theme that it is good business to respond to these seemingly conflicting demands. It is old-fashioned to underrate proper disposal of wastes, whether they were intended to be wastes or not. No longer can we simply spread them around and hope that no one notices them. We produced them; society is now saying we must dispose of them without causing inconvenience, or loss or offense to our neighbors.
Today conservation is taking on a new meaning, reaching out to encompass quality of total environment. It considers the rivers that once graced and now too often disgrace our land. It ponders how to stretch adequately our natural resources to cover the demands of a mushrooming population while still preserving the quality of living. It pits a critical eye and a creative mind against the mounting tide of wastes-liquid, solid and airborne. Many are seeking solutions. Unless they get the benefit of engineering leadership and guidance, the effort is certain to fall.
Origins of Pollution
Some say pollution began when ancient man discovered fire; others, when he moved it into his cave. Deeper thinkers point to the ancient Greeks as the first to recognize the salient features of the problem. About 500 B.C., pedocles said, "Know that effluences flow from all things that have come into being." Pollution was put to poetry in the early 1800's by Samuel Taylor Coleridge as he wrote in uncomplimentary words of the city of Cologne:
In Cologne, a town of monks and bones, And pavements fang'd with murderous stones And rags and hags and hideous wenches; I counted two and seventy stenches, All well defined, and several stinks! Ye Nymphs that reign o'er sewers and sinks, The river Rhine, it is well known, Doth wash your city of Cologne; But tell me, Nymphs, what power divine Shall henceforth wash the river Rhine?
Coleridge was not far off in timing the beginnings of today's problems. We have the physical problem of pollution because of a trend originating in the late 1700's, and because of society's choice to enjoy the advantages of this trend without facing up to its ultimate pitfalls.
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