In the downstream oil and gas sector, refining, distillation, distribution, and transportation activities all have environmental considerations attached to them. Operators in downstream must work with engineers and environmental consultants to ensure designs, processes, and risk management plans at their facilities all make sense within the varying complexities of safety and environmental compliance. Many such plans are created with minimal compliance in mind, yet a more proactive approach to reducing environmental impact is to lay out from day one more robust compliance and control measures that still fit into the long-term budget of the operation.
But what environmental considerations must companies make when planning construction and operation of downstream infrastructure? Wastewater from refineries contains numerous pollutants that prevent it from being discharged into the natural environment. This wastewater must be treated chemically or biologically and then can often be reused rather than discharged. Air pollutants provide another source of concern. A variety of filters, scrubbers, precipitators, and sprays are employed to reduce particulate and acidic emissions. Occasional leaks of hazardous materials may occur around storage tanks, valves, and distribution lines, requiring preventive measures to reduce the likelihood and impact of such events. Even noise pollution must be considered, potentially requiring acoustic treatments on particularly loud modules.
Operators must make one final consideration with their facilities: what will need to be done upon decommission? Oil and gas plants inevitably have an operational impact on soil and groundwater, which must be minimized and resolved during and after decommission. Integrating lessons learned from other branches of operation as well as other companies, project managers can ensure a more effective restoration and reuse program is implemented at decommissioned refineries and distillation plants. This includes remediation activities such as the removal and disposal of hazardous waste, hydrocarbon constituents, and structural components above and below ground.