Oilfield Waste: An Overlooked Commodity

Thumbnail Image



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title

Repository Usage Stats



California oil and gas operators generate large quantities of non-hazardous waste through daily field operations. Vacuum trailers are used to haul oilfield waste to open pits or mixing pads located on lease. Where pits and mixing pads are not available, operators haul waste to third party disposal or landfill. This study evaluates standard oilfield waste handling practices and identifies opportunities to (1) enhance oil recovery, (2) reduce environmental footprint, (3) gain operational efficiencies, and (4) achieve cost savings for the operator. The study sought to determine if centralized processing reduces environmental impact and costs associated with waste handling for oil and gas operators. Oil recovery pilots across three of California’s largest oilfields have generated over $12 million per year in revenue that was being lost to mix pads or landfills. The cumulative oil revenue has exceeded $50 million. The results from pilot studies could have major implications on emerging shale plays, where fluid volumes far exceed those in the mature fields of California. Flowback procedures on new wells generate as much as 20,000 barrels per day of oil-bearing fluids. At a 20% oil cut, 4,000 barrels of oil recovered would result in $200,000 saved every day fluids that fluids are recycled. The study offers a roadmap for waste minimization in mature oilfields and a blueprint for waste optimization strategies in emerging shale plays.





Umbro, Michael (2021). Oilfield Waste: An Overlooked Commodity. Master's project, Duke University. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/22678.

Dukes student scholarship is made available to the public using a Creative Commons Attribution / Non-commercial / No derivative (CC-BY-NC-ND) license.