Going circular in Oman

Oman’s Petroleum Development Company (PDO) is tapping into the circular ­economy by putting in place programs that make its operations more sustainable while reducing costs and increasing waste transport efficiencies.

Extracting and refining oil is dirty work – and, like most industrial processes, produces wastes, both hazardous and non-hazardous. In the oil and gas industry these wastes range from equipment contaminated with naturally occurring radioactive material (NORM) to items as simple as tea bags from  rig workers’ dining halls.

In the current “low oil price” environment, energy companies are increasingly focused on a dual strategy of reducing costs associated with managing their waste and trying to recover value from it while also minimizing their environmental impact. PDO, Oman’s largest producer of oil and gas and a global leader in Enhanced Oil Recovery, has a number of initiatives in place. Sulaiman Shaqsi, Logistics Manager, PDO, explains: “Our environmental effort includes programs such as ‘Bea’tona’ (Our Environment), and strategic plans to use best international practices to implement the waste management hierarchy within  our operations – i.e. to prevent, reuse, recycle, and then dispose of waste that can’t be recovered in any other way.” Shell, PDO’s main joint venture partner, recently highlighted its commitment to sustainability at its Annual General Meeting in 2016. For Shell, sustainability starts with running a safe, efficient, responsible and profitable business.

Bahwan DHL (BDHL), DHL’s Supply Chain arm in the Sultanate, has been engaged by PDO to run the company’s waste transport operations. Through its fourth party logistics (4PL) operations, Bahwan DHL manages the collection and transportation of PDO’s non-hazardous and hazardous waste from the point of origin to the company’s waste management yard or other approved waste disposal sites.

Kevin Bennett, Account Director, Bahwan DHL, comments: “Through our Envirosolutions business and our expertise in Health, Safety, Security and the Environment (HSSE), our focus for PDO’s waste transport is to reduce costs whilst also ensuring we achieve the required standards as set out by PDO and Oman’s Ministry of Climate and Environmental Affairs (MECA). Our remit not only includes introducing ways in which PDO’s waste can be transported more efficiently and effectively, but also identifying innovative methods of waste disposal that are not just more environmentally friendly but help PDO reduce costs as well.”

Sulaiman Shaqsi believes that the circular economy model must be an integral part of PDO’s environmental efforts: “If waste material can be used as a feedstock for another industrial process, this reduces the amount of waste to be disposed of and helps PDO create a circular economy within its operations. The Envirosolutions product from Bahwan DHL provides us with international best practice and expertise and offers us an integrated approach to waste, recycling, energy and  environmental compliance, which helps save money and meet environmental targets.”

Two examples of how PDO and BDHL are working together to reduce waste and drive a circular economy in Oman are:

Examples of hazardous waste

  • Oily wastes
  • Oil-contaminated soil from oil spill/leak cleanup
  • Oil-based mud cuttings from drilling activities
  • Underbalanced drill cuttings
  • Oily sludge and sand from storage tanks, vessel cleaning activities and pigging operations
  • Waste/spent lubricants
  • Equipment and sludge contaminated with naturally occurring radioactive material (NORM)
  • Chemical wastes
  • Mercury (including mercury-contaminated soil, sludge, PPE, gas filters and plastics) from gas maintenance activities
  • Other wastes (e.g. batteries, medical waste, tires, oil filters, e-waste)

Examples of non-hazardous waste

  • Domestic waste
  • Kitchen waste
  • Office waste
  • Waste paper and cardboard, plastic bottles and cups
  • Steel and aluminium cans
  • Printer toner cartridges
  • Empty non-hazardous metal and plastic drums
  • Industrial non-hazardous waste
  • Wood waste
  • Construction debris
  • Non-hazardous chemicals such as sodium chloride and calcium carbonate
  • General scrap metal, drilling scrap metal and electrical cables

1. Waste oil-based mud (obm) cuttings to cement production

When drilling with oil-based mud (OBM), wet OBM drill cuttings are generated at the rig site. These cuttings are then transported by BDHL subcontractors to PDO’s waste management yards, where they are stored and dried before being treated in a traditional process that is both expensive and energy intensive. In future, BDHL will be transporting semidried OBM drill cuttings to the coast near Muscat, where they will be processed by the Oman Cement Company (OCC) factory and turned into cement for use in Oman.

2.  Gas condensate

PDO currently flares (or burns) the gas well condensate produced during the gas well drilling process. However, in order to improve its environmental performance, the company wants to reduce this flaring and, once the gas condensate is captured and stabilized, transport it to the production stations where it can enter PDO’s hydrocarbon production stream. This is in line with the World Bank’s initiative to reduce global gas flaring. BDHL is currently studying how best to load, transport and unload the gas well condensate to help deliver these new operations.

Further improvements

Experience gained through its Envirosolutions business has led Bahwan DHL to believe that there are significant opportunities for reducing costs and generating revenue through improved management and increased recycling of PDO’s non-hazardous waste. A study is currently underway to see how this could be done. In future, it should be possible to include plastic, cardboard and even food waste in PDO’s circular economy. —  Michelle Bach


Published: September 2016

Images: PR, Oleksandr Khomenko/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images; istockphoto