The report details information obtained during the EPA’s outreach to stakeholders. The information in the report will help the EPA determine whether any future actions are appropriate to address oil and gas extraction waste water further. Elevated concentrations of strontium, an element associated with oil and gas waste waters, have accumulated in the shells of freshwater mussels downstream from wastewater disposal sites, according to researchers from Penn State and Union College. With concern growing that the underlying geology in the Permian Basin is reaching capacity for disposal wells, the Trump administration is examining whether to adjust decades-old federal clean-water regulations to allow drillers to discharge waste water directly into rivers and streams. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is embarking on a new study that will take a holistic look at how the EPA, states, and stakeholders regulate and manage waste water from the oil and gas industry.
A professor who the EPA charged with reviewing its 2016 study on hydraulic fracturing’s possible drinking water impacts shared her observations on the flawed process that led to the agency’s final conclusion. With the API and a multi-operator group passing separate programs aimed at reducing methane emissions, the discussions on what defines an acceptable level of regulation continues within the industry. The US government is working on regulations to reduce oil industry methane emissions by more than 40% over the next 10 years. The simplest way to measure return on investment for an offshore water treatment system is to determine whether using the system actually reduces the risk of paying a fine for violating water pollution laws.
Wastewater disposal is becoming a bigger problem for oil and gas drillers. A rule of thumb is that, for every barrel of oil, four or five barrels of waste water are produced. For almost as long as there have been oil wells in Texas, drillers have pumped the vast quantities of brackish waste water that surfaces with the oil into underground wells thousands of feet beneath the Earth’s surface. Technically speaking, drillers are allowed to do this in limited circumstances under federal law, but the process of cleaning salt-, heavy-metal-, and chemical-laden waste water to the point it would meet state or federal water standards is so costly that it’s rarely done, experts say. At some point, if your disposal options are limited or it becomes so expensive you’re having to truck water to be disposed of several hundred miles away, companies will do it,” said Jared Craighead, legal counsel to Texas Railroad Commissioner Ryan Sitton.
The US Department of the Interior encourages the practice of baseline groundwater sampling before drilling, according to its recently released hydraulic fracturing regulations. Although the practice will not be legally required across all federal lands, there are additional reasons to conduct groundwater sampling, said Ryan Leatherbury, client service manager at environmental engineering firm Weston Solutions. The most obvious reason for sampling is for use as a form of “cheap insurance” against water contamination claims, said Leatherbury, who spoke at a recent SPE Gulf Coast Section Waste Water Management Study Group meeting. The department started drawing up regulations in 2010 in response to “public concern,” during the same year that the antifracturing documentary, Gasland, was released. Substances such as heavy metals or biogenic methane gas can occur naturally, for example.
The purpose of this paper is to present a case history of the successful demonstration of a technical program by American industry and government which offers a beginning to the rational solution of the vessel pollution problem.
INTRODUCTION AND SUMMARY
The existence of thousands of large vessels and offshore oil platforms, and millions of recreational watercraft provides the source for substantial contribution to the pollution of America's inland waterways. Sanitary, culinary, bilge, and ballast wastes represent some of the major irritants.
Government and industry, both separately and collectively, have embarked on programs to contain or manage the problem, and in this section the authors will identify many of the methods, from the simplest to some of the most sophisticated, that have been and are being used. The program of how a major corporation in the United States has brought its resources to bear on this problem will be presented.
This case history will develop the background utilized, the award of a government contract which has been successfully completed, and the joint efforts by two industrial organizations to push the solution of the problem as quickly as possible. It will explore the results of waterborne tests on major equipments, and how these results vary as a condition of such items as vessel complements, flushing water characteristics, pitch, roll, etc.
A summary of two Company programs, one with the Environmental Protection Agency, the other with the U.S. Steel Corporation, will be presented. The authors are representatives of the General Electric Company's Re-Entry and Environmental Systems Division. They are Messrs. John G. Federico, Armond J. Bryce, Peter Shelley all of whom are associated with the Company's Water Resources Program. Their biographical sketches will be presented with the full text of the paper.
Approximately 47,000 large vessels of over 1000 OWT navigate in America's coastal and inland waterways. In addition, there are an estimated 1.6 million smaller craft with sanitary facilities. Virtually none of these vessels have waste treatment or containment facilities, and in bodies of water that support high concentrations of traffic from shipping and pleasure craft, they may contribute significant quantities of pollutants. In certain bodies of water that are not subject to tidal cleansing or rapid uni-directional stream flow, the natural ability of the body of water to absorb this waste can be easily overcome.
Certainly, it is not intended to offer here a comparison of major pollution sources with the pollution caused by vessels. Across the spectrum, vessels, even in large concentrations, could rarely cause such drastic effects as are caused by industrial dumpings off the lower Gulf coast of Florida, phosphate mining near the tidal estuaries has been implicated as the cause of major changes in shrimp migration patterns; in Lake Erie the major contributor to the problem has been the unrestricted dumping of wastes from many industrial operations. However, the organic loading from overboard dumping of vessel wastes is a contributing factor to the overall problem and in certain cases, a dominant one.