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Kerry L. Sublette | Sublette Consulting, Inc.

Kerry L. Sublette
Remediation of Brine Spills: What We Learn from What Goes Wrong


Remediation of produced water or brine spills on soil often results in a knee-jerk response of dig-and-haul. Dig-and-haul is sometimes necessary when an environmental receptor is immediately threatened. However, dig-and-haul, even when done correctly, results in a loss of the local topsoil environment and creates an ecological island. Further, ever decreasing landfill space is utilized to dispose of a nonhazardous material. Many brine spills can be treated using an in situ approach which depends on fresh water to mobilize salts, calcium to restore a proper cation balance in the soil, and drainage to convey salty leachate for collection or simply dilution. For 20 some odd years I have taught soil remediation workshops to the oil and gas industry. During this time I have also conducted many brine spill remediation projects myself, many as a volunteer for The Nature Conservancy on the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve in Oklahoma. Over the years I have seen many successful projects but I have also seen many attempts at remediation that have failed. Many of these failures started as manageable sites but after one or more misguided attempts at remediation the sites become more difficult to treat and more costly to remediate. ln this talk I will review what, in my opinion, represents the most common mistakes made in brine spill remediation and the consequences of these mistakes. I will also review what I believe to be the most important lessons learned in remediation of brine spills. Topics will include the importance of organic matter, achieving adequate drainage, providing calcium, the role of water, and revegetation.