Managing Produced Water: Jill Woodworth (Page 1 of 3) By Brian Wickins and Martin Kovacs, 2 Feb 2015

Late last year, Perth hosted a management of produced water seminar with specialist speakers from GHD, Clean H20 Services, Jorin and Veolia.

Attendees learnt what the February 2014 amendments to the Offshore Petroleum and Greenhouse Gas Storage Regulations mean to business and were given an update on produced water treatment technologies, with focus on BTEX and mercury treatment.

We were invited to interview three of the seminar's keynote speakers: Jill Woodworth, Principal Ecotoxicologist, GHD; Dick Meijer, Veolia Water Technologies MPP Systems Director; and Rick Gaskin, Co-founder and Marketing Director of UK-based oil field water management company Jorin Limited.

This week we publish the first of these three interviews. 

Implications of recent changes to offshore regulation, Jill Woodworth.

Changes to the legislation governing management of certain areas of the Australian offshore oil and gas industry, which came into effect in February 2104, have seen the introduction of a number of new requirements for industry. The management of the discharge of produced formation water (PFW) is one area in which industry must now adhere to the new regulations.

Amendments to the Offshore Petroleum and Greenhouse Gas Storage (Environment) Regulations 2009, encompassing the repeal of regulations 29 and 29A, have seen the regulations associated with the management of PFW move from a prescriptive regime to a risk-based approach.

As described by the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority (NOPSEMA), Western Australian regulations previously set a limit of 30 mg/L of petroleum (averaged over 24 hours) in any PFW discharged to the sea, and also outlined associated testing requirements for equipment used to monitor oil-in-water.

Now, under the amended regulations, discharges of PFW are to be assessed and managed in the same way as other emissions and discharges from offshore petroleum facilities.

NOPSEMA, which in February became the sole designated assessor of petroleum and greenhouse gas activities in Commonwealth waters (by meeting the requirements of EPBC Act referral assessment), states: “it needs to be demonstrated that the impacts and risks will be of an acceptable level and reduced to as low as reasonably practicable (ALARP)”.

Ahead of the recent Produced Water Management Seminar, hosted by professional services company GHD, in Perth, Dr Jill Woodworth, GHD Principal Ecotoxicologist, said the new regulations are “a step in the right direction”, bringing the management of PFW in Australian waters in line with world's best practice.

“From an environmental perspective, it is really necessary to go down this risk-based approach,” Woodworth stated of the new regulations. “We should have done this 15 years ago. I think we're 15 years behind where the industry should be. We had the tools to do it, it just wasn't a regulatory priority.

“Instead of having a generic prescriptive number that you need to meet, you're actually targeting a limit that is based on protecting the receiving environment. So, it's a different concept, where the numbers are based on actual environmental research and potential environmental impacts in the area of concern.”

Many constituents of PFW are not found within the formation oil but are dissolved in the PFW itself. These include an array of:

• Production chemicals

• Metals

• Suspended solids

• NORMs

The past method of only measuring the amount of dispersed oil in the PFW could, therefore, miss all the remaining contaminants in the PFW that could have the potential to cause environmental harm. Under the new regulation, potential environmental impacts will be determined by assessing the potential effects of the PFW as a whole by running ecotoxicology and chemical analyses.

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