Not a drop wasted: waste oil recovery in Oman

It makes sense to make the most of every drop of oil lifted

Oil, Prices, ANALYSIS, Industry Trends

When prices are high, budgets big and supplies tight, it makes sense to make the most of every drop of oil lifted. Peter Detnon, general manager of Lamor Clean Globe Oman, tells us about its waste oil recovery project

The higher price of oil over recent months has provoked forward-thinking field managers to look at increasing their yields from oil production. What better way than reducing the environmental issues in the oil fields at the same time? It is not often that managers are able to find ways of sorting out an environmental issue and make some money out of it too.

In the desert of Oman, the field manager and environmental pepartment of one oil producing company has been looking towards sorting out the issue of waste oil pits, where waste from the drilling of production wells is left in reserve pits in the oil fields.

Nowadays these are thankfully lined to avoid the environmental effects of oil leaching into the soil. However, several gulf countries have older pits which are not lined. In Oman, these are being removed as part of a programme of environmental protection work that the company has instigated.

Lamor Clean Globe Oman (LCGO) is active in Oman as an oil spill response company and has stand- by contracts with companies such as PDO, Salalah port, Shell Marketing, BP and ORPIC to name but a few.

However there have only been a very few minor spills over the last couple of years, so the company has had to diversify into a number of other areas such as HazMat handling, tank cleaning, site remediation and oil transfers.

Early in 2011 a pilot project was run by the oil company that included LCGO, using their personnel, equipment and expertise to investigate the pumping out the oil from the reserve oil pits in a suitable condition for sale.

This work is particularly well suited to the oil spill response company as their equipment is designed and manufactured by the Lamor in Finland to be able to pick up large quantities of oil very efficiently from the water.

The pilot project worked well, with LCGO and their equipment pumping in the region of 20,000 barrels of oil back into the system over the ten-week period. The main limiting factor is the ability of the Vacuum trucks to be able to discharge the oil and the distances for them to travel to the discharge point. It would take one 45,000 litre truck in the region of 8 hours to discharge the crude oil but only a couple of hours to fill.

Using just one Lamor Minimax 30 brush skimmer the crew is technically able to pump in the region of 30 cubic metres an hour of oil at an average of 96% oil from the surface of the water. Using a simple filter system debris is eliminated.

In October 2011 Lamor was awarded the contract after tender for continuing the project for another two years and pumping restarted immediately.

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The reserve pits are slowly being removed and replaced with lined cells and pits in a purpose built and impressive Waste Management Facility that deals with much of the waste from the operations and residential areas of the camps miles away from anywhere in the desert.

Before they can be closed down, pits are emptied of oil and then the water allowed to evaporate off. Lamor is able to extract a mixture of oil and water in the region of 95-97% oil. Skimmed oil is put back into the system, increasing production yield.

Some of the lined pits will remain open and often receive more quantities of waste oil mixed with water. One pit has been emptied by Lamor three times since the start of the project as there is a lot of new drilling activity currently underway. Even pits with insufficient water or that appear dry can have water added and the oil will refloat.

To date Lamor has skimmed off just under 8.5 million litres of oil, all of which has been recovered back into the system after filtration. This works out - at an extremely conservative figure of $75 a barrel (180L) - at more than $3,500,000. Total extraction costs have been less than a third of that amount.

It is not often that cleaning up the environment pays back a financial dividend. Indeed, much of the time environmental measures incur a cost in term of production efficiency, diverted human resources or cash, making them hard to justify.

This project has paid its way for the oil company, while at the same time emptying the reserve oil pits and allowing a way forward for the closure of some pits and eventual remediation of the soils, which Lamor also offers as a follow on service.

LCGO is keen to exploit this untapped reservoir of oil and to beginning pumping services in more oil fields in the region.

Surprisingly, demand is still not strong for the services, despite the fact that there are thousands of barrels of oil sitting in reserve pits across the Middle Eastern region not generating revenues, and there is a good margin in it for the oil producing company, in addition to media-friendly environmental benefits.

The team comes as a self-contained unit with pumps, skimmers, hydraulic power packs, spare parts, pipes, absorbents, pick up and HIAB truck. Many technicians are Omani.

The Lamor equipment has proven to be rugged enough to work in extreme conditions and temperatures for long hours each day, every day for months. Lamor’s manufacting hub in Finland has also welcomed the challenge of seeing their equipment being used at its maximum in a demanding environment. It has already implemented one of the suggested improvements that arose from the extensive field work.

The only requirements by Lamor Clean Globe from the client have been food, accommodation and the occasional requirement for a crane where the pits have been too inaccessible for their extended HIAB to reach the pits. Vacuum trucks are also required for transport.
The biggest problem so far has been when the pit is almost empty. If the wind direction changes to the opposite direction, it can take half a day to move all the equipment round to the other side, by which time the wind can have changed again.

Both organisations are happy with the way the contract has gone and are looking forward to continuing to help the environment and their ultimate oil revenues.

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Oil & Gas Middle East - September 2020

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