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Evolution of Oil and Gas Waste/Soil Remediation Regulations

[+] Author Affiliations
L. E. Deuel, Jr.

Soil Analytical Services, Inc.

G. H. Holliday

Holliday Environmental Services, Inc.

Paper No. IMECE2005-80460, pp. 61-67; 7 pages
  • ASME 2005 International Mechanical Engineering Congress and Exposition
  • Energy Conversion and Resources
  • Orlando, Florida, USA, November 5 – 11, 2005
  • Conference Sponsors: Power Division
  • ISBN: 0-7918-4218-5 | eISBN: 0-7918-3769-6
  • Copyright © 2005 by ASME


The meaningful United States regulation of onshore oil and gas field waste/soil commenced in the mid 1980’s in response to a series of state, federal, industry and international initiatives. Most initiatives centered on the design, construction and operation of earthen pits used in the exploration and production of oil and gas (E&P). Prior to this time, earthen pits were constructed as needed by the operator and used in all phases of E&P activity. Chief concerns of the regulators were focused on what had gone into pits historically, what was going into them currently and was the E&P exemption excluding high volume E&P wastes from the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) regulations justified. Several investigations, including the comprehensive field study by the Environmental Protection Agency in 1987, determined E&P wastes are ostensibly non-hazardous. EPA concluded regulation of E&P wastes under RCRA Subtitle C was not necessary. To this day there is no U. S. federal regulatory program with exclusive jurisdiction over exempt E&P wastes. Other studies, primarily industry and academic, focusing on land limiting constituents, management practices and pit closure strategies revealed sodium salts and petroleum hydrocarbon in the form of diesel range organics were the primary limiting constituents. One state, Louisiana, adopted the technical aspects of these studies and developed a comprehensive regulation known as Statewide Order 29-B, which was based on the concept of limiting constituents and defined post closure performance standards. These standards limited salinity, sodicity, total metals and total petroleum hydrocarbon (oil & grease) with values varying with respect to landform, land use and closure technique. Other states have adopted some of the concepts and criteria advanced under 29-B but none are as comprehensive. Obviously there is a need to control what goes into pits and how pits should be closed. The industry would best be served by adopting the concepts and standards set forth in the Louisiana 29-B regulation. A few of the provisions could be changed to make it more palatable to industry without sacrificing the protection afforded human and animal health, safety and the environment. Internationally, particularly countries in South America embraced USEPA protocol for testing characteristically hazardous wastes, but 1) without the framework to handle the relatively large volume of non-hazardous E&P waste generated and 2) no regulations or protocols for on-site waste management. Several operators, although partners with state owned oil companies, on their own volition, applied the concepts and standards under Louisiana’s 29-B to rainforests in South America and rice paddies in Indonesia. Canada and European oil and gas producing countries have developed stringent standards not based on science, which favor costly treatment technologies. Generally, these countries prohibit cost effective on-site waste management and closure techniques. This paper traces the evolution of waste/soil remediation within the United States and internationally. We trace the progress as a function of time; the impetus for regulation; and probable future controls.

Copyright © 2005 by ASME



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