Estimation of Drilling Wastes–An Environmental Concern While Drilling Oil and Gas Wells

Filed in Articles by on December 8, 2022

 – Estimation of Drilling Wastes–An Environmental Concern While Drilling Oil and Gas Wells – 

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Despite its numerous benefits the search and production of crude oil pose a lot of dangers to the environment. Among these include land, water, and air pollution. Prominent among the major sources of E&P waste is drilling operations which form the second-largest source of waste after production activities.

The major drilling wastes are drill cuttings, drilling mud and obnoxious gas emissions. These wastes are introduced into the environment through intentional as well as accidental discharges and this expulsion into the environment has direct and indirect effects on aquatic life, personnel working on the rig, plants, flying birds, as well as the soil.

This research work purposes to identify the various forms of drilling waste, their effect on the environment and to develop strategies in managing these waste effectively. The ability to effectively identify, quantify, classify and adopt strategies to eliminate or reduce the impact of drilling waste on the environment defines an effective waste management practice.

In all situations source reduction of waste is the most favorable and economically feasible drilling waste management option and should in all cases be a priority over the other methods of waste management. However, this task of adopting an effective waste management tactics is not as simple as it looks.

In its quest to developing effective strategies for managing drilling waste, it is identified that the quantity of waste generated plays an important role in drilling waste management. It dictates the type of waste management method to adopt, the design of waste boxes, waste disposal cost among others.


Formulation of problem

Petroleum is among the world’s most important natural resources. It is the most significant and highly traded primary commodity in the international market (Illedare, et al., 1999) and has remained the world’s primary source of energy for both industrial and domestic applications since replacing coal early in this century.

However, the finding and production of petroleum involves the generation of drilling waste which forms a major source of pollution in oil-producing environment. Almost every process in the finding and production of petroleum generates wastes which impacts the environment negatively.

Until 1980’s, little or no thought was given to the generation and disposal of cuttings and excess drilling fluids. Typically, these materials were discharged overboard in offshore operations or buried when drilling in land-based locations.

The global environmental awareness in the late 1980s to early 1990s made the oil and gas industry and its regulators to understand and  appreciate the potential environmental impact of drilling waste (Geehan, et al, 2000). In an effort to manage and reduce the impact of drilling waste on the environment, a number of technologies and publications have been written.

Technologies such as directional drilling, slim-hole drilling, coil-tubing drilling and pneumatic drilling are few of the drilling practices that generates less amount of drilling waste. A number of drilling waste management plans and programs have also been designed by different companies and researchers.

Drilling waste management refers to ways by which drilling and associated wastes could be handled effectively in order to minimize their effect on the environment. Wastes that are usually associated with drilling operations are: – drill cuttings, contaminated drilling fluids and additives, gaseous contaminants from internal combustion engines, produced water as well as heavy metals.


Aird, P. 2008: Drilling Waste Management Technology Descriptions, USDOE (2008) , Date Accessed: 15th August, 2011.

Anon 2011: Drilling Engineering Lecture Notes, Heriot-Watt University, Department of Petroleum Engineering, Edinburgh, Scotland, (2011)

Anon    (a)         2011:             “The     importance    of    oil” Ph/Petroleum.html # ixzz1QktPNPpO, Date accessed: 10th, August, 2011

Anon (b) 2011: Waste Management, – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, http:// /wiki/ aste_Management, Date accessed: 10th, August, 2011

Anon (c) 2011: Drilling Fluids, (http: // /wiki/ Drilling_fluid # Composition _of_ drilling_mud), Date Accessed: 31st July, 2011

CSN Team.

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