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Hypoxia, Program Review, and Total Petroleum Hydrocarbon Workshop
Project Number
FEW 49342

The goal of this project is to provide new information and support to DOE and the oil and gas industry through three tasks. The tasks are (A) continued work on produced-water discharges to the hypoxic zone, (B) coordination of a program review for DOE and industry through the Petroleum Environmental Research Forum (PERF), and (C) organization and coordination of a workshop with PERF on total petroleum hydrocarbons (TPH).


Argonne National Laboratory (ANL), Washington, DC


Each year, DOE receives recommendations for additional research from oil and gas industry representatives through PERF. The three tasks in this project were recommended by PERF for FY06.


The benefits of Task A are quite significant. The data collected by ANL in its hypoxic zone study were used by EPA to justify a decision that no new permit requirements were needed. This decision avoided a potential cost of many million dollars of additional cost to further treat offshore produced water. The benefits from Tasks B and C relate to the sharing of research and information among DOE, industry, and researchers. The tasks will develop and share information that the industry can use to improve environmental protection and interaction with regulatory agencies.

Accomplishments (most recent listed first)

Task A continues ANL’s work relating to produced-water discharges to the Gulf of Mexico hypoxic zone. The initial work was funded through FEW49177. Task A provides additional funding. ANL’s detailed study of produced-water characteristics was provided to EPA in August 2005. EPA hired three expert water quality modelers, who used the ANL data as model inputs. The modeling results were submitted to EPA in May 2006. In December 2006, EPA released its draft permit for Gulf of Mexico discharges. The draft permit noted that the produced-water discharges were determined to be having an insignificant impact on the hypoxic zone. Therefore, no additional permit requirements would be imposed on oxygen-demanding materials in produced water. ANL has had conversations with DOE, NETL, and PERF about both the Task B program review and the Task C TPH workshop. In June 2007, EPA issued the final permit for Gulf of Mexico discharges. The permit noted that the produced-water discharges were determined to be having an insignificant impact on the hypoxic zone. Therefore, no additional permit requirements would be imposed on oxygen-demanding materials in produced water.

This program includes three unrelated tasks that were recommended as being valuable to the oil and gas industry by PERF. In the first task, ANL will continue to work with EPA and the offshore operators to interpret the hypoxic zone model results and review the future permit conditions developed by EPA.

In the second task, ANL will work with NETL and PERF to coordinate a special research program review at an upcoming PERF meeting to allow for interaction between NETL-funded researchers and industry representatives. The review will involve representatives of oil and gas companies, national laboratories, universities, regulators, and other contractors working on NETL-funded tasks in the chosen topical area. The deliverable for the second task is a report summarizing the discussions held at the review, including recommendations for follow-up research ideas.

In the third task, ANL will assist PERF in organizing a TPH workshop. The workshop will look to update the earlier work of the Total Petroleum Hydrocarbon Criteria Working Group, which provided technical information needed by regulators, site managers, and risk assessors to implement health risk-based decisions at petroleum-impacted sites. The deliverable for the third task is a written workshop summary.

Current Status

(September 2009)
In June 2007, EPA issued a permit indicating that, based on its review of ANL’s produced-water characterization data, no additional permit requirements relating to the hypoxic zone would be necessary. The Argonne produced water characterization study provided the baseline data for these findings. Had the study been funded by industry instead of by DOE, the results may not have been considered by EPA in the same light. Had EPA’s determination not been so clear-cut, the latest permit could have placed significant restrictions on biochemical oxygen demand (BOD) or other parameters that cannot be readily treated at platforms given the space and weight constraints. This could have forced offshore operators to pipe produced water back to shore or reinject it. Both of these options are quite costly, and could have caused some production to be shut in.

A report was completed that describes water requirements relating to heavy oil production and potential sources for that water. The report also describes how water is used and the resulting water quality impacts associated with heavy oil production.

In addition to requiring water, production of heavy oil requires a substantial amount of energy for removing the heavy oil from the ground, processing it, and transporting it off-site. Because of its higher viscosity, heavy oil presents more challenges for operators.

The project requirements were completed and all reports were submitted to DOE.

Project Start
Project End
DOE Contribution


Performer Contribution


Contact Information

NETL – Jesse Garcia ( or 918-699-2036)
ANL – John Veil ( or 202-488-24500)

Additional Information

Task A: Numerous presentations were made under the previous project (FEW49177). The following presentations are newer and are funded under this project.

Bierman, V.J., Jr., S.C. Hinz, D. Justic, D. Scavia, J.A. Veil, K. Satterlee, III, M.E. Parker, and S. Wilson, “Predicted Impacts from Offshore Produced-Water Discharges on Hypoxia in the Gulf of Mexico,” SPE 106814, presented at the 2007 SPE E&P Environmental and Safety Conference held in Galveston, TX, March 5-7, 2007.

Veil, J.A., “Outcome of Produced-Water Sampling Program from Platforms in the Hypoxic Zone,” presented at the 17th Produced-Water Seminar, Houston, TX, January 17-19, 2007.

Veil, J.A., “Characteristics of Produced Water Discharged to the Gulf of Mexico Hypoxic Zone,” MMS Information Transfer Meeting, Kenner, LA, January 9–11, 2007.