by Tina Olivero

    Changing Waste For Good: In Newfoundland

    When most people think about Newfoundland’s offshore oil and gas industry, they likely focus on exciting ventures into exploration, capital investment or production volumes. Drill mud and other industrial wastes aren’t usually top of mind; they don’t seem to capture as much imagination.

    Unless you work for Terrapure Environmental, in which case the opposite is true.

    Terrapure has been managing offshore oil and gas waste in Newfoundland for more than 20 years. And as the industry continues to grow, the topic is only getting more interesting, more complex and more meaningful.

    First to introduce on-island drill mud management

    When Terrapure started to serve Newfoundland’s offshore oil and gas industry, the common practice was to collect waste and transport it to the mainland. There was no on-island infrastructure to handle drill mud, a by-product of oil and gas drilling, which is a significant waste stream.

    It did not take long to realize shipping waste was not sustainable, efficient or cost effective. So Terrapure invested in finding a new, on-island solution.

    The company started by treating drill mud with chemically aided centrifugation, using chemicals and gravity to break down the mud into oil, solids and water. But Terrapure realized that the oil content in the remaining solids was still high enough to require post treatment, so it expanded the process by adding a bioremediation operation.

    The two-step process worked, but the team continued to refine the process.

    Today, the company combines a proprietary emulsion-breaking process called “Terrabreak” with thermal desorption for a more efficient and effective result. In essence, what starts as waste drill mud becomes reusable water, reusable oil and ash (which is used as landfill cover). Terrapure is the only company to use this process and eliminate customer waste liability in a matter of days, as opposed to other methods, which take years. Terrapure’s unique approach speaks to the volume of expertise the company has developed over the years.

    Acquiring to expand

    In Newfoundland, Terrapure has the only site permitted to receive small format and bulk hazardous waste from oil and gas customers. It is also the only company to have a permit to receive Naturally Occurring Radioactive Materials (NORM)- contaminated waste, as well as trained personnel to survey contaminated pipes on offshore platforms.

    But being the only one to offer something isn’t enough, especially when there are more needs to be met. To expand its service offerings, Terrapure acquired Envirosystems Inc., which added a deep expertise in industrial services, the full scope of industrial cleaning equipment (e.g. vacuum trucks and vacuum tankers), and a specialized pier for faster turnaround times.

    For offshore oil and gas customers, Terrapure can now offload the contents of vessel tanks, clean the tanks quickly and process the waste – all on island. For even more convenient service, Terrapure modified its vacuum trucks to be acoustically compliant with St. John’s bylaws, which allows it to operate 24/7 in the port in downtown St. John’s.

    Looking ahead

    Just because Terrapure handles the vast majority of the island’s offshore oil and gas waste management needs does not mean it’s time to rest on laurels. Terrapure is continuing to improve its services and expand its expertise.

    What can the industry expect? Three things.

    First, Terrapure is working on projects to process even more industrial waste on the island.

    Second, it wants to reduce manned entries into vessel tanks through automated cleaning. Every time someone enters a vessel tank, it is a risk, and Terrapure is actively looking to reduce the frequency of those risks.

    Finally, the company is ramping up efforts to live its brand promise of Changing Waste for Good. For example, Terrapure started diverting oil- contaminated plastic debris from landfill and sending it to be reused to manufacture composite deck boards. For customers, this focus means they can expect solutions that reduce waste, improve operational efficiency and recover value from waste streams.

    As the only company that can manage all oil and gas waste streams in Newfoundland, Terrapure is proud to be a part of this industry. Industrial waste might never make it into dinner conversations, but rest assured that it’s being handled locally, effectively and sustainably.


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