Offsite Commercial Disposal

Fact Sheet - Offsite Commercial Disposal

   
 
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In the United States, more than 99% of the produced water generated onshore is managed onsite by the operators (API 2000). Under certain circumstances, however, operators prefer to send their produced water offsite to a commercial disposal facility. This is typically accomplished by having a truck periodically visit the well locations, remove the accumulated water, and haul it away to the destination facilities.

  Photo of truck hauling liquid waste to commercial disposal facility.Truck hauling liquid waste to commercial disposal facility; Source: J. Veil, Argonne National Laboratory..

Offsite commercial disposal becomes the option of choice when small producers do not want to have the responsibility for constructing, operating, and closing onsite facilities. Onshore operators who do not have access to nearby formations deemed suitable for accepting produced water through injection wells may also look to offsite disposal. This fact sheet describes the commercial produced water disposal business in the United States.

In 2006, Argonne National Laboratory published a report and database describing the network of offsite commercial disposal facilities that accept different types of exploration and production (E&P) wastes (Puder and Veil 2006a,b). Because the Argonne report focuses on costs, this fact sheet, unlike most of the others, contains detailed cost information. The following discussion on offsite commercial disposal options for produced water is based on that report.

The most common commercial disposal method for produced water involves injection, followed by evaporation and burial. Commercial produced water injection operations occur throughout the United States. Texas, Louisiana, and Oklahoma are home to many companies that operate commercial disposal wells. The disposal costs range between $0.30/bbl and $10.00/bbl. In most cases, costs are less than $1.00/bbl.

Evaporation of produced water is most widely reported in Wyoming (seven companies), followed by Colorado (four companies), Utah (four companies), and New Mexico (three companies). The disposal costs range between $0.40/bbl and $3.95/bbl — one company in Colorado asks $84.00/bbl.

  Photo of injection well at commercial disposal facility.Injection well at commercial disposal facility; Source: J. Veil, Argonne National Laboratory.
  Photo of waste receiving areas at salt cavern disposal facility.Waste receiving areas at salt cavern disposal facility; Source: J. Veil, Argonne National Laboratory.
  Photo of waste receiving areas at salt cavern disposal facility.Waste receiving areas at salt cavern disposal facility; Source: J. Veil, Argonne National Laboratory.

Burial in municipal landfills is potentially available for produced water across the nation. However, solidification, which is generally required, drives up the costs. Volume-based costs range between $3.00/bbl and $22.00/bbl in Texas and North Dakota, and $18.00 yd3 in New Mexico. Weight-based costs vary significantly by state, but generally fall into a range between $15.00/ton and $80.00/ton. Mississippi and Louisiana report higher ranges of up to $128.00/ton and $250.00/ton, respectively. Burial of produced water in commercial pits is not widely reported. Three companies — one in Oklahoma, one in Utah, and another one in Wyoming — report costs ranging between $0.35 and $4.00/bbl.

Cavern disposal offers a competitive option for produced water in Texas. Five companies at multiple facilities indicate a cost between $0.30/bbl and $10.00/bbl.

Discharge of produced water was reported by three commercial disposal companies in Pennsylvania and one company in Wyoming. The costs range between $0.045/gal and $0.055/gal ($2.25/bbl and $2.75/bbl) in Pennsylvania, and between $2.50/bbl and $3.50/bbl in Wyoming. All four companies conduct treatment prior to discharge operations. Two facilities in Pennsylvania discharge produced water to a municipal wastewater treatment plant for a disposal fee of $0.015/gal to $0.050/gal ($0.75/bbl to $2.50/bbl).

Land application of produced water is available in Arkansas (one company), New Mexico (two companies) and Utah (one company). Costs are $0.30/bbl to $0.40/bbl in Arkansas, $5.18/bbl to $18.00/bbl in New Mexico, and $100/ton ($26.25/bbl) in Utah.

Treatment of produced water is offered by one company in Alabama and another in Texas. Costs range from $5.00/bbl to $14.00/bbl.

Recycling of produced water is not widely reported. One company identified in California charges $5.00/bbl for recycling; another company in Oklahoma indicates a cost of $25.00/load.

Thermal treatment of produced water is offered by a Texas company. Costs range from $0.02/lb to $0.20/lb ($40.00/ton to $400/ton, or $10.5/bbl to $105.00/bbl).

References 
API, 2000, Overview of Exploration and Production Waste Volumes and Waste Management Practices in the United States, prepared for the American Petroleum Institute by ICF Consulting, May.

Puder, M.G., and J.A. Veil, 2006, Offsite Commercial Disposal of Oil and Gas Exploration and Production Waste: Availability, Options, and Cost, prepared for U.S. Department of Energy, National Energy Technology Laboratory, Aug., 148 pp. Available at http://www.evs.anl.gov/pub/dsp_detail.cfm?PubID=2006.

Puder, M.G., and J.A. Veil, 2006b, "DOE Funds New Study on US Off Site Commercial Disposal of E&P Waste," Oil & Gas Journal, pp. 37-45, Nov. 6.

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