Environmental Effects of Drilling Waste Discharges

ADVANTAGES

Although the discharge of cuttings contaminated with OBMs and SBMs is now effectively banned, or about to be banned, in Western Europe, WBMs may still be discharged with cuttings and additive residues here and in most jurisdictions, including North America, provided they are treated to prevent the formation of surface slicks from crude oil entrained in the wastes. According to the US Department of Energy, "WBMs produce short-term, minor impacts on the seabed, whereas OBM cuttings introduce long-term, more severe impacts" (). According to UKOOA (), WBM is relatively harmless because it "contains water as its primary lubricant/coolant and no oil". In some situations "additives may have organic properties but these are only allowed in very small quantities". As a result, UKOOA believes there is no residual oil on the cuttings. Any salts or minerals coming from the mud are "not biologically available as they are in non organic forms coming generally from the barite used as the cutting medium". A review of the literature suggests that WBMs may not be as benign as this suggests.

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