In this week’s edition of Shippers’ Guide, the Managing Director, Chief Executive Officer Paradigm Environmental System Consultants Limited, Mr. Adebiyi Adeosun explains the intricacies of waste management in the oil and gas industry and how these wastes can be recycled to drive the Nigerian economy.
What is waste management?
Waste management is the management of resources throughout their life cycle and this means handling them from cradle to grave, in between that life cycle we start seeing opportunities and even though the material has gone to its grave, we can take it back to cradle so it is the recovery of material resources. What is more important is in what ways can we recover value from this resource when they eventually go to grave and if we cannot recover anything, how do we ensure that they are responsibly disposed without negatively impacting on the environment? That is the objective of waste management.
How is waste generated in oil and gas drilling activities?
In drilling, of course, the earth is drilled out and you do not return what comes out back to the whole so you have a lot of drill cuttings and drilling mud, the drilling mud is used to maintain pressure, lubricate and stabilize the system, maintain the strata to avoid collapse, so the drilling mud has to be handled along with a lot of chemicals used with it during production, this chemicals are too numerous to mention, the chemicals must be properly managed and there are also things like waste oil, waste pipes, obsolete materials, even the offices have both hazardous and non-hazardous waste that must all be managed appropriately.
This requires an integrated approach and that is why the industry has an Integrated Waste Management System (IWMS) and Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control (IPPC), this is cascaded into the process and the operators often have their own procedures and guidelines which they implement to make sure they comply with the regulatory agencies. They have to be futuristic in their waste management approach with a sense of responsibility to do it right and if they pollute they should recognize and apply the 3ps, which is the Polluter Pays Principle (PPP).
The regulatory agencies make sure that the company that pollutes the environment pays either through fines, sanctions, withdrawal of license or close scrutiny of their business activities and so on, Mother Nature cannot suffer the negligence of corporate organization, so they must be responsible for the natural and social environment where necessary.
How can waste generated in the oil and gas industry be managed?
The oil and gas industry generates quite a lot of waste of so many properties and so many nature, some of which are hazardous, of gas , liquid or solid , the handling of the waste in the oil and gas sector is largely determined by the nature of the waste its characteristics and the state and a function of the process of the waste and life cycle however the most important thing is to minimize the waste from the design of the process and recover and recycle some materials that their life cycle has ended so that they can start a new life cycle as something else, as in the case of pipes.
There are wastes that are not recyclable, you do not need to take them in, so you reject them but that is after you have rendered them harmless before discharging them into the environment, at that point it is mandatory that the legal requirements of regulatory agencies are complied with. So right from the design of their process they look at ways to prevent and minimize waste before looking at ways to dispose waste.
What are the waste management strategies that the Federal Government apply to manage oil and gas drilling waste?
What they do is to put together the policy and the regulations which are well documented and for the oil and gas industry, you have the Mineral Oil Safety Regulations (MOSR) which is basically about reduction of waste from the production. There is also Environmental Guild line and Standard for Petroleum Industry in Nigeria (EGASPIN), first documented in 1992 revised in 2002 and 2011, it looks at the waste and how they are managed.
All the regulatory agencies are involved to endure compliance with procedures within the industry. We also have the Federal Ministry of Environment, National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA), National Environment Standard Regulation Enforcement Agency (NESREA), Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), among others, even down to the local government level. The role of the government is to develop policies and procedures to encourage the industry through ensuring that the fiscal terms encourage investors to put their money in the industry.
What are the processes of disposal of chemical waste?
Handling chemical waste involves the nature of the waste, it could be a toxic waste, irritant waste, explosive waste, radioactive waste, corrosive waste, all will not be handled the same way, if it is acidic waste for instance, it will require finding a base reactor and because the product is fairly environmental friendly once you are able to take away the salt, the water can be treated appropriately and discharge into the system or environment.
However if it is a gaseous waste for instance the form is different and this will determine what can be applied to it, in the case of waste oil, the options are biodegradation or bioremediation, in a spill site or in a tank and if for instance, I have an equipment that will ensure better separation of oil from water such that the water can be as clean as possible for as long as it meets regulatory standard within the confines of the law, I am allowed to discharge.
In the case of metals, the best option is to recycle and there are companies that have need for such waste, so you take it to them, although you might get virtually nothing out of it but at least you have complied with the environment and lastly is the option of incineration depending on the material and the temperature at which they burn, some might not burn under normal conventional incineration, it requires a Thermal Desorption Unit (TDU).
For saw cutting waste, it can be thermally incinerated and burnt out into the atmosphere and since incineration is controlled burning, it allows for managing the amount of emissions going out of the environment and with a scrubber most of the poisonous gases are extracted out and contained. So for gases it could be a scrubber or a carbon bed which traps gases, allows non-hazardous gases out, allows hazardous gases to be diluted before letting them out into the atmosphere. The technologies are wide ranged, very wide.
The oil spill in Ogoniland has been abandoned for so many years, now Shell Petroleum Development Corporation (SPDC) has taken responsibility and has agreed to pay the larger share of $1 billion of the $2 billion that has been estimate as the cost for the cleanup exercise. What do you have to say on this?
It is good that someone has taken responsibility because it has been long anticipated and SPDC has finally decided to be a responsible corporate organization but it is not unexpected because the Niger Development Environmental Survey (NDES) report and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) report, indicated that there has been massive land degradation in Ogoniland, some of this companies won’t dare to do what they are doing in Nigerian in their own countries, all the same this is a very good place to start from because someone has taken ownership, the next step will be how to come up with a plan to effective implement the cleanup exercise.
Government has established (IPREP), even as some believe that it is a duplication of the duty of NOSDRA, but government in its wisdom felt that IPREP will focus more on the on oil spill cleanups in Ogoniland , so they have been given the mandate to handle oil spill degradation in Nigeria and the Niger delta in particular.
The Ogoniland oil spill is a $20 billion project over a space of 10 years at the rate of $2billion per year and Shell has committed $10million and counterpart funding is expected from the government and other oil company operators as well, this should have taken off long ago but it has been delayed for the reason of government not making good its promise, the political will not being there, and the oil industry operators fearing the consequences of Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB), the current cash crunch in the oil industry due to the falling price of crude oil all contributes to make if a lot more difficult to do quite a lot but as it is , it is a step in the right direction because it has been long overdue.
It is possible that those lands have turned derelict by now and the level of job that will be required will be massive, a lot of excavation will be carried out and the handling of ground water quality will be a great challenge because the technologies are not available, that is going to be a major challenge. There is the need for the pump and treat, requiring a lot of excavation and TDU will be also be needed to treat them, also chemical and biological treatments will necessary.
We hope that the government now has the will to do it because the current administration now seems to be putting all the right things in place, so now that SPDC has put in 10million dollars and the FG has asked other companies to put in $10 million each, if the government can also put in $10million and all together there is up to between $500million to $ 1 billion which is a far cry from the $2billion that has been projected but at least we would have started something, what is important is to get started and see how the system responds, we are likely going to have costs not being as high as $2billion a year.
In the process of waste management in the oil and gas industry what is the role of recycling and what products are obtained?
Whether hazardous or not quite a lot can be recycled in the oil and gas industry and the industry is also looking massively into recycling, my experience as far back in 1985 with SPDC showed that quite a lot can be achieved, we used to have what was called the scrap committee in every field of operations to look at wastes like plastics drums used for putting chemicals, unused material, obsolete materials and how to manage them, now the whole idea has gone beyond a scrap committee, it is now more futuristic, pragmatic and strategic.
Between 70 percent to 80 percent of these materials can be recycled, it is big business, even waste oil can be useful to other operators outside the oil and gas. The possibilities are quite endless, the technology needed is where the challenge is, but it is workable here in Nigeria, some companies that are licensed to work here in Nigeria have the equipment to recycle metals and other waste from the oil and gas, although some are still coming in from china but now a days, it is reduced because there are a lots of Nigeria companies in the recycling business.
There are a lot of surface miners picking materials from the waste generated from metal, when they bring them to the plants, they are shredded, milled and after adding additives the pellets are fed back in the system, this might not be applicable for use in polythene production and it might not be thermo plastic, the end product will be thermostat of different properties from the imported version from china.
What is the government doing to encourage private participation in recycling?
For me, government is not doing enough, investment in waste is big investment, it does not sometimes have the kind of yield expected and investors need to be encouraged. Most of these equipment are expensive and when you take a look at the tax regime that we are all exposed to, you will ask if government is interested in the growth of these companies.
So government must encourage investors by creating an enabling environment where people can invest their money in terms of tax rebate, carbon tax, for example, Mouka Form was asked to change their processes from a process that takes a whole lot of chorine which is a greenhouse gas, to a process that uses carbon-dioxide in puffing their mattresses and the World Bank took credit for it. Government should give credit for such, and incentives that encourages it so that a lot of companies can come into Nigeria and invest their hard earned money because with the current setting it is really tough.
How much does it take to set up an oil and gas recycling plant in Nigeria?
What is done now basically is right from the source you collect, then have a place where you segregate, after that you select what is recyclable from what is not recyclable, then you consider your hierarchy of waste management processes and apply them appropriately depending on the type of waste.
Now for waste management in the oil and gas industry, the first thing to look at, is the equipment which is the TDU, because there is no way you can have a waste management plant for oil and gas operations that will be anything short of 3 to 4 million dollars that is the minimal for a TDU then you add other costs, and it is also a function of capacity, if you are looking at a big plant, handling may be 20 tonnes of waste a day, may be you will be looking at over $ 5million for the TDU since this is the equipment that manages waste from drilling.
The business is good, the opportunities are endless because there are very few operators in it for now, however, the request for service cannot be met due to inability to source adequate funding.