Best Management Practices for Oil Exploration and Extraction

What are Best Management Practices?

Best Management Practices (BMPs) refer to operating procdures and good housekeeping habits for reducing and preventing pollution. The overall philosophy behind BMPs is to conduct everyday activities in a more environmentally-sound manner, recognizing that it may not always be practical to control or manage pollution after it is generated. Using BMPs can help a facility save money, protect the environment and improve community well-being.

Why Implement Best Management Practices in the Oil Exploration and Extraction Industry?

The petroleum industry generates a number of wastes during oil exploration and extraction. The primary wastes generated by drilling oil wells are drilling fluids and cuttings. Wastes generated by field production are produced water (i.e., brine, petroleum hydrocarbons, metals, chemical treatment additives) and oily sludges. Secondary wastes include hydraulic fluid, weighting agents, acids, solvents, tank bottoms and oil debris. Improper disposal of these wastes has the potential to harm the soil, water resources and wildlife.

Each suggested BMP will need to be judged on a case-by-case basis, taking into account the conditions, operations and limitations of each facility. You are encouraged to individualize the BMPs to your operations and site conditions, and to develop your own solutions for preventing pollution.

  • Have roads, tank batteries and other production facilities been located and constructed to minimize impacts to surrounding areas, such as human populations, wetlands and sensitive ecosystems?
  • Have siting considerations been included that will reduce or eliminate potential impacts from wastewater discharges, air emissions at tank batteries, and spills on mammals, birds, fish and benthic organisms (mud dwellers)?
  • Can directional drilling techniques be employed, particularly near sensitive environmental areas?
  • Can smaller diameter holes be drilled?
  • Can the use of excess muds, additives, and water be avoided?
  • Is it possible to substitute organic or synthetic additives (mineral oil) for diesel-based mud?
  • Can the amount of containers/packaging be minimized (e.g., buying barite and gel in bulk)?
  • Are unused chemicals/additives/muds being returned to the vendor/supplier?
  • Is it possible to minimize the volume of disposed mud by using improved solids control technology?
  • Can separation systems be employed for filters and solids to extend the life of drilling muds?
  • Can borehole erosion and enlargement of the hole be reduced by using drilling fluids that minimize reactions with the drilled formations and wellbore hydraulics?
  • Is it possible to use alternative drilling fluids and additives to reduce toxicity such as:
    • Chrome-free lignosulfonates and polysaccharide polymers to replace chrome lignosulfonates for reducing drilling fluid viscosity?
    • Lubricants such as lubra beads and gilsonite-based additives to replace diesel oil?
    • Isothiazoline and amines to replace pentachlorophenols and paraformaldehyde as biocides?
    • Mineral oil in place of diesel oil as an effective substitute for stuck pipe spotting fluids?
    • Low solids nondispersed drilling fluid systems to replace dispersed systems which typically require large volumes of water?
    • Sulfite and organic phosphate corrosion inhibitors to replace chromate corrosion inhibitors?
  • Have site preparation and drilling activities been scheduled to avoid disturbing plants and animals during crucial seasons in their life cycles?
  • Is it possible to reduce erosion by minimizing digging and soil movement and by protecting slopes with covering, sandbags, or plants?
  • Can casing-head gas recovery systems be installed at production wells to reduce hydrocarbon emissions and hydrogen sulfide emissions?
  • During secondary production, do you monitor production water levels to identify when injection water or formation water migration is occurring?
  • Is it possible to install monitoring systems for underground pipelines to prevent soil and groundwater contamination?
  • Can underground piping be used that is made of corrosion resistant materials or can underground piping be protected using cathodic protection or other devices?
  • Can recirculation pumps be added to product storage tanks to reduce the settling of heavy hydrocarbons on tank bottoms?
  • Can drip pans be used at treatment vessels, valves, and product pipeline junctions?
  • Is insulation material covered and protected to minimize degradation?
  • Are only those tests necessary being performed and are they being performed no more often than required?
  • Can test methods/procedures be used which generate no or less waste (for example, colorimetric testing)?
  • Is the segregation of waste chemicals being used to reduce the amount of toxic waste for disposal?
  • Will the supplier accept excess or unused chemicals?
  • Can lubricants be bought in bulk?
  • Is it possible to minimize the volume of waste lube oil by extending its use?
  • Is a regular inspection and maintenance program being used by the facility to minimize lead or line failures?
  • Do you recharge/recondition batteries or recycle them?
  • Do you extend oil change out intervals through oil analysis?
  • Do you purchase reusable oil filters?
  • Is antifreeze recycled?
  • Do you keep lids on parts washer to avoid solvent evaporation?
  • Can you purchase citrus-based solvents?
  • Are tire rotations and alignments done regularly?
  • Is appropriate tire pressure maintained?
  • Are tires with greater road-wear abilities purchased?
  • Can non-essential painting be reduced or eliminated?
  • Can your paints and supplies be purchased in bulk and do you only purchase the amount needed to do the job?
  • Are paint batches being sized systematically for specific jobs?
  • Can less toxic, less volatile paints and solvents be purchased (for example, paints with lower metals content)?
  • Are water-based or high-solids coatings being used whenever possible?
  • Is it possible to use a brush for small jobs instead of spraying?
  • Are all containers kept closed to reduce evaporation?
  • Are paints being purchased that have greater durability?
  • Is it possible to buy paint in smaller containers to reduce excess paint when mixed?
  • Have you trained employees to apply paints efficiently?
  • Can you reduce overspray by proper use of spray gun?
  • Do you only mix the amount of paint that is needed?
  • Do you use paint up completely?
  • Have you considered buying materials in skid-mounted bulk hoppers or containers?
  • Is it possible to purchase recycled plastic pallets which have a longer life than wooden pallets?
  • If not, do you re-use wooden pallets as long as possible?
  • Have you considered using piping/liners made of materials that do not corrode?
  • Can you minimize scale buildups by optimizing chemical treatments and cathodic protection programs?
  • Can less toxic pipe dope materials (for example, lead-free) be used?
  • Have you considered using only the amount of dope needed to protect pipe threads?
  • Can any excess pipe dope be used at another location?
  • Is rig wash water used judiciously?
  • Have all sources of water leaks been examined and eliminated?
  • Are automatic shut-off nozzles being used on rig floor water hoses?
  • Are closed-loop mud systems being used?
  • Have pits/pit systems been designed to minimize waste by the following methods:
    • Size and construct pits to accommodate only the necessary volumes anticipated plus an adequate freeboard?
    • Eliminate use of pits or reduce pit size by 1/3 to 1/2?
    • Use pit liners?
  • Can pits be replaced with above-ground or double-walled partially buried tanks?
  • Is a catchment pan installed on top of the wellhead to prevent spills?
  • Are products purchased that are manufactured with recycled plastic?
  • Are the appropriate gravel pack size and screens being used?
  • Is solids control equipment engineered to maximize cleaning efficiency and minimize oil and/or salt contamination?
  • Has the production rate been optimized?
  • Are solids kept mixed and in solution for eventual central removal?
  • Are wells completed to minimize water production?
  • Is re-perforation of wells being utilized to minimize water production?
  • Are downhole fluid separation techniques, or water shut-off (blocking) techniques being used whenever possible?
  • Are corrosion inhibition chemicals and "cold treatment" being used for produced water?
  • Is the thick coalescer panel in oil water separators being replaced with thin panel baffles?
  • Can less toxic and non-radioactive alternatives be used?
  • Are equipment and facilities being maintained in a manner to prevent drips, leaks, spills, etc. which would require cleanup?
  • Are drip pans or other containment systems being used to collect drips, leaks, etc?
  • Is high-pressure, low-volume washing equipment being used?
  • Has a regular maintenance program been set up for water systems?
  • Are paint solids removed from water arrestor holding tanks using a centrifuge or cyclone system?
  • Is wash water volume reduced by using sweeping/dry cleaning methods when practical?
  • Have automatic shutoff nozzles been installed on hoses?
  • Have the following methods been used to reduce soil contaminated with crude oil, chemicals, produced water, sulfur, and refined oil?:
    • Improved housekeeping and use of drip pans, double walled sumps and above-ground sumps.
    • Use of pit liner material around and under production facilities.
    • Use of impervious secondary containment.
    • Installation of fences around facilities to minimize releases caused by vandalism.
    • Use of cathodic protection, coated pipe, etc. to minimize leaks.
    • Install high-level alarm systems and/or shut-off devices on tanks.
    • Replacement of conventional storage tanks with "false bottom" tanks that allow for early leak detection.
    • Consolidation of produced fluid separation and well testing facilities.
    • Use of "canned submersible pumps" to replace conventional impeller type pumps used for fluid transfer service.
  • Have you eliminated solvent usage where possible?
  • Is the appropriate quantity for the job being purchased and used?
  • Do you buy in bulk when appropriate?
  • Do you use less toxic and less hazardous solvents, such as citric acid-based solvents?
  • Is high-pressure water, steam or non-toxic solvent being used to clean equipment?
  • Are RCRA-listed and non-listed solvents segregated in order to reduce the amount of hazardous waste?
  • Are solvent containers kept covered when not in use to decrease evaporation?
  • Is a "Just-in-Time" inventory control system being used?
  • Are the number of spills being minimized?
  • Is impervious secondary containment being provided?
  • Is a collection system being used for drips, leads, hose connections. etc.?
  • Is it possible to minimize the use of absorbents to collect spilled material?
  • Is it possible to improve work processes and properly maintain equipment and facilities to reduce leaks, spills, etc?
  • Can the facilities be covered to eliminate contamination of stormwater?
  • Do you segregate drainage from liquid storage, loading/unloading/facilities and operations areas from un-impacted areas?
  • Is all clean stormwater diverted away from contaminated areas?
  • Are all wastes stored where they are not exposed to stormwater?
  • Has the volume of solids collected in storage tanks been minimized?
  • Are tanks designed to reduce the volume of produced tank bottoms (for example, cone-shaped bases)?
  • Is a gas blanket kept on tanks to reduce oxygen and formation of iron oxides?
  • Can you install return line to run bottoms through heat-treater more frequently than normal?
  • Have sources of solids been identified? If yes, have engineering or operations solutions been attempted?
  • Is oil reclaimed onsite or sent to reputable reclaimer?
  • Are light oil tank bottoms treated in heavy oil dehydration facilities?
  • Are tank bottoms sent to a refinery coker?
  • Is a centrifuge or filter press used to recover oil and water form tank bottoms?
  • Can re-circulation pumps be added to product storage tanks to reduce the settling of heavy hydrocarbons on tank bottoms?

Oil Field Service Industry

  • Have you considered using a portable surface liner during transfer of fluids?
  • Purchasing and Materials Management:
  • Can you institute an inventory control program through centralized purchasing?
  • Do you have secondary containment for hazardous materials storage?
  • Do you use recyclable containers that can be returned to vendor?
  • Can you install oily water recycling systems which includes oil water skimmer?
  • Facility Design and Construction: Can you install a concrete floor?
  • Has the building been designed to segregate wastes?
  • Have quality assurance, prevention and maintenance programs been developed?
  • Are acids and other well treatment fluids handled in the following manners?:
    • Use of "canned submersible pumps" to replace conventional impeller type pumps used for fluid transfer service.
    • Is the system designed so mixing is done automatically through computer system?
    • Is the system designed so mixing takes place indoors where there is secondary containment?
    • Has filtering, recycling and reusing of materials been practiced prior to disposal or treatment?

For further information on waste reduction opportunities, please contact one of the following:

First Stop Business Information Center
Department of Commerce and Community Affairs
620 East Adams Street
Springfield, IL 62701
(800) 252-2973
Department of Natural Resources
Waste Management and Research Center
1 East Hazelwood Drive
Champaign, IL 62628
(217) 333-8942
Department of Natural Resources
Office of Mines and Minerals/
Division of Oil and Gas
524 South Second
Springfield, IL 62701-1787
(217) 782-7756
Illinois Environmental Protection Agency
Office of Pollution Prevention
1021 North Grand Avenue East
P.O. Box 19276
Springfield, IL 62794-9276
(217) 782-8700