Oil drilling waste site proposed near Nikiski

The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation is looking for public feedback on an application for a solid waste permit submitted by a local energy support company to build an oil and gas drilling waste disposal site in Nikiski.


Kenai-based AIMM Technologies, Inc., has asked the state to consider a monofill to accept drilling waste from Cook Inlet oil and gas exploration and production activities that generally contain soil, gravel, drilling muds and sometimes hydrocarbons, according to a press release issued by Nathaniel Emery, environmental program specialist with Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation. Monofills are landfills intended only for a single type of waste, Emery said.

According to the application, AIMM is permitting for 15,000 tons per year of drilling waste exempt from the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act and 1,000 tons per year of RCRA nonexempt, nonhazardous waste listed as hydrocarbon contaminated soil. The site is to be in the industrial section of Nikiski at the end of Bakers Road, also known as Halliburton Road, on a 10-acre property.

Kelly Martin, Alaska Regional Manager for AIMM Technologies, said the combined 16,000 tons per year is an "estimate" and the actual disposal rate would depend on increased drilling activity in Cook Inlet.

He said the monofill will provide another option for many of the smaller independent oil exploration companies in Cook Inlet that don't have the infrastructure set up to dispose such waste.

"I can't say necessarily how much we will be accepting at the waste site over the course of any single year," he said.

According to the permit, waste will be first treated at the drilling site by being passed over a shale shaker or equipment to remove excess water prior to transport. Those remaining solids will be drill cuttings, which are returned to the surface from drilling activities with a drilling mud that acts as a lubricant in the exploration process, Martin said.

The permitted hydrocarbon contaminated soil would be nonhazardous, Martin said.

"Still contaminated with hydrocarbons, but not to a level that would make the waste hazardous," he said. "There are multiple determinations for whether or not a waste is hazardous. Typically contaminated soils are authorized by the DEC for disposal. This cell would be one option, the borough landfill also accepts contaminated soil to a certain level and there are other options in the state as well."

Martin said many of the large oil companies in the area have their own waste cell systems.

"The only thing different about this cell is that it is privately held," he said. "In a nutshell this cell is being constructed for the benefit of all and not just for one specific drilling operation, but for multiple drilling operations."

The monofill would be a system of three lined cells so that as one cell fills up, it can be permanently capped with an impermeable liner, then covered with a layer of gravel and topsoil so vegetation can be replanted on top of it, Martin said. The smaller cell system is designed to minimize waste exposure, as opposed to one large cell that could take a long time to fill, he said.

Each cell will be double-lined with a leak detection system installed between layers to notify the operator if there is a breech in the primary liner, he said.

The facility design also includes annual groundwater monitoring at six locations around the facility to ensure groundwater resources are protected, Emery wrote in the release. AIMM states in its application there are no surface water bodies or streams located within 200 feet of the property's boundary and no drinking water wells exist within 500 feet of the waste footprint.

Martin said the facility would likely not accept hydraulic fracturing fluid.

"That fluid by regulation is exempt and would qualify, but it is not our intent to take water at the facility," he said. "Now there is sand that is used in the fracking process which would be suitable for disposal."

AIMM has proposed a public meeting to discuss the application although no date or time has been set, Martin said.

"This is still pretty new and we are taking in what we hear," he said. "We've told the operators in the inlet about our intentions and it's been well received and something that's been needed."

More information can be found at http://dec.alaska.gov/eh/sw/index.htm in the right-hand column.

Written comments are being accepted on the proposal through 5 p.m. on July 23. Comments can be mailed to: Nathaniel Emery, ADEC, Solid Waste Program, 555 Cordova Street, Anchorage, Alaska 99501. Fax: 907-269-7600; email: nathaniel.emery@alaska.gov.

Brian Smith can be reached at brian.smith@peninsulaclarion.com.