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Ramirez, Pedro1
(1) U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Cheyenne, WY

ABSTRACT: Oil Field Produced Water Discharges into Wetlands – Benefits and Risks to Wildlife

Approximately 600 oil field produced water discharges are permitted in Wyoming by the State’s Department of Environmental Quality's (WDEQ) National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit program. Wyoming is one of a few states that allows the discharge of oil field produced water into surface waters for beneficial use by livestock and wildlife. Sixty-six wetland sites receiving oil field produced water discharges in Wyoming were surveyed to assess compliance with NPDES permit requirements and the amount of chronic oil releases associated with these discharges. Separator pits were also surveyed for wildlife mortality and to assess implementation of wildlife deterrents. Although limited in scope, this survey of oil field produced water discharges in Wyoming shows that: inefficient oil-water separation is causing a chronic discharge of oil into some of the wetlands receiving oil field produced water; and, over half (53 percent) of the sites surveyed used only flagging, an ineffective deterrent, to discourage migratory birds from entering oil pits used to skim oil from produced water. Additionally, approximately 85 percent of the oil field produced water discharges surveyed went into ephemeral streams. The wildlife benefits gained from the oil field produced water discharges are accompanied by the inherent risks of oil spills into the receiving waters and wildlife mortality in skim pits. Wildlife mortality in skim pits is preventable. The risk of chronic oil discharges or oil spills into wetlands can also be significantly reduced by implementing several proactive measures.


AAPG Search and Discovery Article #90026©2004 AAPG Annual Meeting, Dallas, Texas, April 18-21, 2004.