Midland’s Return Disposal boasts environmentally friendly waste disposal technology

Oil or natural gas well drilling produces a lot of waste. Managing the waste has become a challenge, and even more, the center must be more sensitive to the environment and disposal methods.

A company has developed a method to dispose of solid waste that results in zero waste and does not require landfill disposal. In fact, it named itself “Return Disposal,” because it returns the waste back to its place of origin.

“The technology we use is called fractured slurry injection,” said Toben Scott, president of Return Disposal.

He said the technology has been around since the 1980s, invented by MI-Swaco in conjunction with Phillips 66 for their North slope operation.

“In a harsh environment like the North Slope (or) in a pristine environment, you can’t dump oil-based cuttings into the tundra or truck it to Anchorage,” Scott said. And, he added, it’s cost-prohibitive to fly the pieces. So, the two companies devised a way to “dump” the waste and inject it into pre-engineered disposal intervals.

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Scott, who began his career with Phillips in Houston, read about the technology in the company’s newspaper and its use in Bohai Bay, China, in 2000. Seventeen years later, after striking out on his own, he developed a relationship with a Chinese company. who had worked with Phillips in the Bohai Bay project.

The two companies are forming a joint venture to use Chinese technology to dump “slurrified” waste into their companies’ saltwater disposal wells.

Scott classifies solid oil field waste in two ways: Western Solids, which includes oil-based muds, water-based muds and tank bottoms that arrive in vacuum trucks or pipelines, and dry solids, which arrive in end-dump trailers. While Balik disposal can do both, he said that handling wet solids dominates the business.

Traditionally, that waste has been disposed of in landfills or what are known as landfills, he said. The company mechanically processes the waste into finer particles until it can be injected into traditional disposal wells whose wells have been constructed for disposal. Reservoir engineers then ensure waste is stored with maximum efficiency and economy. Having a reservoir to do so tells the company how the stone responds, allowing the company to change the parameters accordingly, he explained.

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“The environmental benefits are huge,” Scott said. “Instead of an unpleasant ‘ski hill’ that is a landfill, we can inject the waste 5,000 to 11,000 feet below the surface, basically where the waste comes from.”


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