Do oil and soil mix? Not really, says just about everybody, from regulators to landowners. So when it gets on the ground, through a spill or by careful design, there are regulations about how it must be remediated.
Texas Railroad Commission regulations require total petroleum hydrocarbons (TPH) to be below 10,000 ppm before contaminated soil can be safely buried. That level protects the water table. In today’s ESG-heavy climate, regulators are focusing more and more on making sure operators get this right. If the treatment method does not achieve the 10,000 ppm level, the soil must be hauled off, which adds further costs of trucking and disposal. The ultimate effect is that even the remediation site is contaminated, leaving an environmental situation there as well.
Traditional treatment methods have several challenges, costing a lot in money, time, and toxicity. Most involve hydrogen peroxide. In the 3% concentrations sold in stores, it’s great for cleaning the kitchen sink or for disinfecting minor skin wounds. But in the high levels needed for reducing TPHs, H2O2 is not only toxic, it’s very costly. And operators tell us it takes 90 days or more to do its job. That’s a long time to wait.
JGL microbes have already proven very effective at removing scale, corrosion, and paraffin in SWDs, EOR and other oilfield applications. They work great, they are cost effective, and they’re non-toxic. So when we had opportunity to send them out to battle TPH levels in soil, we jumped at the chance.
The operator had soil with contamination levels at 127,000 ppm, an area of 400' X 40' with contamination down to 6 feet deep. There was 3,500+ cubic yards of dirt to be treated and a very expensive amount to have to send off in trucks for disposal. They needed a remediation that was less costly but more effective at getting the job done and, having heard of our other successes, wanted to see if JGL microbes would work in this situation as well.
For the test, they divided the area into a grid with 12 sampling sections. On our part, we tested the soil and formulated a microbe mix designed to efficiently break down those hydrocarbons. We delivered our treatment, which the operator mixed into the area. After just 34 days they preliminarily sampled about a third of the grid. To their pleasant surprise they found TPH levels already at 6,000 ppm, well below the required concentration. At 45 days they took the official sample, finding TPH levels drastically cut again, this time down to just 1,100 ppm. Our powerful little microbes did all this with a single treatment in half the time and for about half the cost of H2O2 treatments, and with zero toxicity. After this, no further monitoring or handling is needed.
At the above levels of cleanliness the soil actually thrives. It’s not unusual for the treated land to green up and sprout healthy plant life afterward. Talk about green energy!
Here are the specifics:
Location: Permian Basin in Texas
Goal: Remediate soil to 10,000 ppm TPH or below to meet RRC regulatory standards and eliminate need for disposal hauling
Area – 400’ x 40’ contaminated down to 6' deep
Initial Baseline Sample – 9/30/21 - 127,000 ppm TPH (official 12 spot grid composite)
JGL Microbe Treatment Date – 11/11/21
Soil Mixed – 11/12/21
Next Sample Date – 12/15/21 – 6,297 ppm TPH (unofficial 3 spot grid composite) 34 days
Final Sample Date – 12/28/21 – 1,110 ppm TPH (official 12 spot grid composite) 47 days
There are different strains of microbes for different issues. JGL Microbes are able to blend into one treatment, tailor-made to your system.
Synthetic chemicals are man-made copies of naturally occurring chemicals in nature and are for the most part toxic and/or environmentally harmful to personnel, plants, animals, aquifers, etc. Microbes are more effective than chemical because of their biological process, they produce natural chemicals and by-products in situ making them much more effective for common oilfield applications.