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SPE 108912

Environmentally Safe Waste Disposal: The Integration of Cuttings Collection,

Transport, and Reinjection
A. Alba, F. Fragachan, A. Ovalle, and T. Shokanov, M-I Swaco
Copyright 2007, Society of Petroleum Engineers

This paper was prepared for presentation at the 2007 International Oil Conference and
Exhibition in Mexico held in Veracruz, Mexico, 2730 June 2007.

This paper was selected for presentation by an SPE Program Committee following review of
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presented, have not been reviewed by the Society of Petroleum Engineers and are subject to
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The development of new oilfield technologies to explore such
remote areas as deep waters and environmentally sensitive
locations brings with it increased emphasis on protecting the
natural resources of the drilling area. Accordingly, many
regulatory agencies demanding zero discharge policies require
all generated wastes to be disposed in a responsible manner.
Such process requires the adequate management of wastes
generated during drilling operations including cuttings, excess
drilling fluid, contaminated rainwater, produced water, scale,
produced sand, and even production and cleanup waste. Old
practices involve temporary box storage and hauling of the
waste products to a final disposal site. Often, these sites are
several kilometers away from the generation source, creating
not only liabilities for the operating company but also
environmental risks such as accidental spills, gas emissions
and eventually high operating costs.
Over the years, waste management technologies have
evolved to address environmental solutions in the most
efficient and cost-effective processes. As such, Cutting Re-
Injection (CRI) nowadays is considered top-of-the line
technology for the final disposal of drilling wastes through
sub-surface injection into an engineered-designated formation
where wastes are permanently contained. Transporting the
wastes to the final disposal well poses a challenge in large
development fields, where the most cost-effective solution is
often to drill a dedicated injector and convey all produced
wastes to the site.
This paper addresses the success of integrating
methodologies for containing, handling, and transporting drill
cuttings from several drill sites to a unique CRI well, where
wastes are injected for final and responsible disposal. Case
histories of several sites around the world are presented as
they used different process configurations to achieve the
common final objective: a cost-effective and environmentally
friendly solution for waste management.

The three main drivers for the selection of a cuttings collection
and transport system and re-injection package are regulations,
logistics and cost.
Depending on the country, region or marine area, the
existing regulations may or may not allow discharge or
transportation of the waste. In some areas where legislations
are less stringent, transportation of generated waste to satellite
disposal sites (in land or offshore) is allowed. In highly
sensitive areas in which zero discharge policies are strictly
enforced, all generated waste must be stored, treated and
disposed in-situ. Because of such limitations, drilling
operations were often limited by the collection capacity and
ability of the CRI system to inject all waste concurrently. The
new approach is to decouple the injection process from the
drilling operation, providing a totally independent cost-
effective process.
For the logistics, the main limitations are determined by
rig configuration, availability of space, types of materials,
distance of the material transportation, and safety, which
ultimately translate into costs. Therefore, each operation
should be analyzed individually to determine compliance with
local regulations, logistics and cost involved so proper
collection, transport and re-injection packages are tailored to
fulfill the specific needs of the project.
The best approach to provide the most reliable solution for
environmentally safe waste disposal has been identified as the
integration of cuttings collection and pneumatic transport
system as part of the CRI package.

Cuttings Re-Injection
In general, CRI is a process wherein solids (cuttings) and
liquids (waste fluids) are gathered and conveyed to a series of
components that classify, degrade, mix, and condition them
into an stable and pumpable slurry. This slurry is then
hydraulically injected into a subsurface formation that is
receptive and permanently isolated at a safe depth beneath a
cap-rock to prevent propagation to the surface.
The main advantages of CRI are:
No release to surface environment, providing full
compliance with zero discharge policies.
Reducing the logistical burden.
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Limited risk of environmental discharge during
Total control for the operator, who can oversee
and manage the whole process in-situ.
Cost effective.
The versatility of CRI has made it an attractive fit-for-
purpose solution that has been proven to work onshore and
offshore, for tubular or annular injections, and in abandoned,
currently used or dedicated wells.
One of the most attractive configurations shown in Figure
1 is commonly used in the North Sea, where the slurry
injection takes place into a producer annulus simultaneously
with production in the same wellbore with cuttings coming
from a drilling well within the same platform.

Figure 1. Simultaneous Drilling, Production and CRI

A successful CRI operation requires a system capable of
delivering the required fluid volumes downhole at adequate
pressures. Each CRI system should be configured to satisfy
the disposal volume requirement and fit the space available in
the rig. Typically, equipment is skidded to allow unitization
in a close cluster, allowing the CRI package to be distributed
throughout the available space when necessary. Overall, a
Cuttings Re-Injection package is comprised of three principal
1. Cuttings Transport System
2. Slurrification System
3. Re-Injection System
Figure 2 illustrates a basic CRI configuration with all
equipment from all three systems.

Cuttings Transport System
The main purpose of this system is to convey cuttings from
point A to point B as necessary. The simplest configuration is
to transport cuttings from the shakers to the slurrification
system by gravity, but more complex configurations are
necessary depending on the rig space availability and how
equipment is spread out along the rig floor. In addition, in
many cases cuttings or slurries need to be transported from the
source location to the CRI injector well.

Figure 2. CRI Basic Equipment

To suit all different options, four transport systems are
1. Gravity Collection System
2. Augers or Belt Conveyors System
3. Vacuum Transport System
4. Pneumatic Bulk Transfer and Storage System
All systems have been proven to work with certain
limitations, but they can be implemented in conjunction with
each other to provide improved results.

Gravity Collecting System
In the Gravity Collection System, the force of gravity
allows liquids and solids to flow from a higher elevation to a
lower elevation as illustrated in Figure 3. This system is the
simplest of all, and it is often the preferred option, but its use
is not always possible due to space limitation on the rig floor.

Figure 3. Cuttings Discharge into Barge

Augers or Belt Conveyor System
Augers shown in Figure 4 and Belt Conveyors Systems
transport solids and solid/liquids blend by mechanical means
in an effective manner, but is limited by high liquid content,
short distances, elevation, direction change; the longer the
auger the more degradation to materials. This option is simple
and inexpensive if all equipment is on a vertical plane or at
SPE 108912 3
lower elevations as it is virtually impossible to move high
liquid content upwards; or else, rig modifications to fit this
requirement will be major and costly. One important aspect is
that cuttings are exposed during this type of transport, and
foreign materials can easily plug or jam the system. Also, it is
very common that cuttings do not always fit containers with
100% efficiency.

Figure 4. Auger used for Transport

Vacuum Transport System
With the Vacuum Transport System, solids and liquids are
transported by vacuum-drawn air in fixed lines using a
vacuum blower unit. This system transports dry materials as
well as wet materials from deck and pit cleaning. Vacuum
Transport Systems provide a good option if the CRI
equipment layout is more widespread or if the deck is higher
than the cuttings ditch. However, the transportation distance
is often limited and will depend on the combined vertical and
horizontal distance, the material properties, as well as the
expected rate of drilling, which will also determine with
amount and type of units to be selected. Figure 5 shows a dual
vacuum system

Figure 5. Dual Vacuum Transport System

Pneumatic Bulk Transfer and Storage System
Bulk Transfer and Storage System allow de-coupling of
the CRI injection process from the drilling operation providing
better control over the slurry quality rather than being under
command of the ROP. Solids and liquids can be transferred
by a pneumatic system using positive air pressure and stored
in tanks as shown in Figure 6. This system has a few
limitations and allows transportation for longer distances and
different heights, and adds an excellent contingency to
temporary handling during downtimes without affecting the
drilling program. By being a closed system, it can transport
wet or dry materials in a safer and efficient manner.

Figure 6. Pneumatic Bulk Transfer and Storage System

Pneumatic Bulk Transfer and Storage technology was
developed in 1998 as a response to logistics, safety and
environmental concerns encountered while transporting
cuttings with conventional mechanical systems and cutting
boxes. Operational issues included dependency on cranes,
ability to maintain boxes, reliability of the equipment,
potential injuries to personnel, and risks of potential spillage.
It has been proven effective on semi-submersible and jack-
up mobile drilling rigs, platforms, supply boats, barges, and
land rigs, with over 500,000 m of well drilled over 50,000
hours of running time, and total recorded availability or
uptime of the system of 99.7%. It has been successful
transporting water base cuttings as well as oil base cuttings
even in hostile environments.
The system comprises a blower, specially designed tanks,
and a diverting valve. The blower is the prime mover of the
system, it is a pressurized vessel equipped with an inlet valve,
and outlet valve, and a feeder hopper mounted on top as
shown in Figure 7.

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Figure 7. Blower for Pneumatic Bulk Transfer

The specially designed tanks are a combination of storage
vessel and conveying device that can be transported fully lade
with cuttings by road or rail to a discharge location. As each
pump is an independent unit, these tanks provide extra storage
allowing uninterrupted drilling totally decoupled from the CRI
operation. These tanks are built within a standard ISO
container frame (20-ft) with high structural strength, and
which only moving part is the outlet valve as illustrated in
Figure 8.

Figure 8. Specially Designed Tanks for Pneumatic Bulk Transfer
and Storage
Cuttings feed into the blower unit can be controlled by a
timer or hopper-level probes. When the unit is filled, it is
automatically sealed and pressurized, then compressed air
conveys the material and discharges it as a batch. Once a tank
is full, the valve is used to divert the cuttings to the next
available tank.
Some of the advantages are:
Environmentally sound design. Once cuttings
enter the blower unit, they are contained into a
close system avoiding foreign materials and
isolated from personnel for safety.
System flexibility. Blower units can be used to
convey cuttings in a large variety of applications
not limited to tanks, skips, but also including
dryers, CRI units, thermal treatment units, barges,
dumper trucks, disposal sites, among others.
Efficiency. Cuttings can be transported for
considerable distances, and it can also achieve
significant vertical lifts.
Reliability. Few moving parts that make units
more robust, resulting in automatic operations
that could be run on a variable timer if required.
Smaller foot print. Compact design that saves
valuable rig-floor space.
Pneumatic Bulk Transfer and Storage technology has been
awarded the U.S. National Ocean Industries Association
(NOIA) Safety in Seas Award in 2006, becoming the
leading technology for waste collection and transport.

Slurrification System
Once the cuttings have been transported from the source
location, the CRI slurrification system provides a means of
degradation to acceptable levels and homogenizing the
cuttings into a quality-slurry acceptable for down-hole
injection operations. The process could require separate
grinding applications when coarse materials are present or
during periods of heavy sands, but in general a typical
slurrification system includes:
1. Coarse Tank
2. Classification Shaker and Grinder
3. Fines Tank

Coarse Tank
Once cuttings enter the slurry unit, they are mixed and
blended with water by circulating the cuttings in the Coarse
Tank using centrifugal degradation pumps. These pumps are
modified centrifugal pumps equipped with special shortened,
hard-faced impeller blades that increase the attrition in the
pumping chamber, accelerating the degradation of the solids to
quickly form slurry. The housing on the pumps also is
equipped with hardened steel to minimize erosion from the
sands. When the Coarse Tank is almost full, the modified
Centrifugal Pumps transfer the slurry to a classification

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Classification Shaker and Grinder
The classification shaker performs at least three important
Ensures proper particle size for the injection slurry
Removes fines that would otherwise take up valuable
mill volume, thus slowing the grinding process
Eliminate fines before they are ground too fine, thus
consuming extra time and energy
Material not reduced to specified size by the centrifugal
pumps will be further reduced by a grinder. Particles that do
not meet the size specifications are transferred through the
grinder then pumped back over the classification shaker. This
process is a complete close loop system with the sand, which
greatly helps to minimize the extreme wear on the centrifugal
degradation pumps. The capability of a grinding system to
perform its task effectively depends on the size reduction of
the coarse material, and the removal fines from the circuit

Fines Tank
Particles that meet the required specifications fall through
the screen and enter the Fines Tank where the quality control
and quality assurance process is verified. Conditioned slurry
is prepared by mixing the correct ratio of solids to liquids, and
proper chemical treatment to assure homogeneity and stability.
Once the CRI operator is satisfied that the slurry meets the
required criteria for re-injection the slurry is transferred to the
Holding Tank, which is part of the Re-Injection package.

Re-Injection Package
Each Re-Injection Package is designed to fit the project
needs and limitations, while tailoring slurry parameters,
injection well, and required hardware for monitoring. Overall,
the three main components of this package include:
1. Holding Tank
2. Injection Pump
3. Data Acquisition and Monitoring System

Holding Tank
Holding Tanks receive slurry only from the Fines Tank via
the classification shaker. The classification shaker ensures all
oversized material is discharged from the end of the shaker
and returned for further processing. An agitator in each tank
ensures the cuttings are kept dispersed and in suspension until
the CRI operator determines the time for injection. At that
stage, the slurry is transferred using the centrifugal pump on
the CRI skid, to the HP Injection Pump low-pressure manifold
to the selected HP re-injection pump, then down hole and into
the chosen host formation.
Holding tanks have a dual function, one is to store slurry
batch for injection, and also in many cases these are used as a
second quality control and quality assurance point. In the
event slurry is found out of specifications, it is possible to re-
condition the slurry thanks to its design. The tank is
partitioned to include a higher volume of quality slurry and
smaller volume for pill mix tank. The pill mix tank has a jet
hopper located above it where a high viscous pill can be pre-
made and introduced into the slurry as required to meet the
required slurry characteristics.

I njection Pump
The high pressure pump is designed to fit the
characteristics of each job based on volumes, rates and
pressures. It is important to specify proper injection pump to
be able to handle and keep up with drilling operations when
performed simultaneously.

Data Acquisition and Monitoring System
One of the key elements for ensuring safe and seamless
CRI operations is continuously monitoring injection
parameters with regular in-depth injection pressure analysis.
Historical injection data from other CRI projects proves that
even the most detailed and comprehensive geo-mechanical
model created during the initial design stage has to be
validated and updated as injections progress.
Monitoring of injection parameters provide the best risk
mitigation and management tool. This process starts with
detailed assessment of all of the injection parameters and
events recorded during injection on a daily basis. These
parameters include Injection rate, Injection Pressure, Injection
time, Shut-in time, and Fluid rheology.

CRI Configurations
Endless possibilities for cuttings collection and transport
during CRI are available. Some of the most popular will be
described below.
Figure 9 and Figure 10 show some of the simplest
configurations using augers, one connected directly to the CRI
slurrification system, and the other filling cuttings boxes to be
transported to a different location.
Figure 11, illustrates a combination of auger and vacuum
transport systems, while Figure 12 shows a typical vacuum
system for CRI operations.
When regulations permit, transport to shore or inter-field
can be achieved by using vacuum systems for skip and ship
transport as shown in Figure 13.
Figure 14 shows Pneumatic Bulk Transfer and Storage
System used for CRI operations. Notice that the number of
tanks required, will de different depending on the type of job,
storage capacity required, and availability of rig space.

Case 1
Case 1 represents one of the few CRI dedicated platforms
in the world. In two and a half years of operation, nearly 1.3
million Bbls of waste have been injected into this platform.
For this massive job, cuttings are collected in boxes and
transported by boat from dozen of neighbor offshore wells.
Once cuttings arrive to the dedicated CRI platform, cuttings
are emptied by a hydraulic tipper that fills blower units for
easier transport within the platform as shown in Figure 15. In
addition, 12 specially designed tanks are used for additional
storage and improved transport capacity in the platform.
Although hydraulic tippers have improved the overall
process, delays and equipment failure are often encountered
due to foreign material and trash dumped into the cutting
boxes as illustrated in Figure 16 and Figure 17.

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Case 2
Case 2 is an example for an area with strict zero discharge
policies, by which no cuttings disposal overboard for water
base mud is allowed. Cuttings are collected in boxes through
a lifting crane to the supply vessel as shown in Figure 18.
Even though regulations are fulfilled, the risks for spillage
and personnel injuries are imminent.
Lifting-related incidents involve about 20% of all
accidents reported in offshore drilling operations according to
the UK HSE OSD research report 183, 2004. For example,
Norway had 8 fatalities related to lifting 1994-2004 according
to the Norwegian PSA 33.790.007, June 2005.

Case 3
Case 3 illustrates the safest collection and transport system
for CRI operations when injection is not feasible in the same
location in which cuttings were generated. For this case,
cuttings are stored on the rig illustrated in Figure 19, and their
subsequently transferred to a supply boat by a 5 inch hose as
shown in Figure 20 and Figure 21.

The safest and most environmentally acceptable option for
waste disposal is achieved by the integration of Pneumatic
Bulk Transfer and Storage and CRI technologies. They both
have been proven in different locations under a variety of
conditions, fulfilling all the requirements of the most stringent
regulations such as the zero discharge policy. The initial
investment to implement these two technologies is high at the
beginning of the project, but the return of investment is
favorable in the long run.
Different collection and transport systems are available,
one or a combination of several can be used for a particular
project. The main drivers for selection are logistics, safety
and cost.
Decoupling CRI from drilling operation provides huge
benefits for the operator, especially while drilling top hole
intervals, in which large volumes of waste are generated at
fairly high rates. Savings in time while drilling is highly
appreciated by operators, who are allowed to reach target
times for production on-time or even earlier than anticipated.

The authors wish to thank for their unconditional help and
Gary Woolsey: CRI Operations Manager Technical
Support, M-I SWACO.
Jan Thore Eia: Cuttings Handling and Transportation
Business Development Manager, M-I SWACO.
Slava Anokhin, Julio Ronderos, and Said Benelkadi:
GeoMechanics Engineers, CRI Sub-Surface, M-I

J.T. Eia, E. Hernandez: Environmental Advances in Drilling Fluids
and Waste Operations Applying Novel Technology for Fluid
Recovery and Recycling, SPE 102737 paper presented at the
2006 SPE Russian Oil and Gas Technical Conference and
Exhibition held in Moscow, Russia, 3-6 October.
Q. Guo, T. Geehan, A. Ovalle: Increase Assurance of Drill Cuttings
Re-Injection Challenges, Recent Advances and Case Studies,
SPE 87972 paper presented at the 2004 IADC/SPE Kuala
Lumpur, Malaysia, 13-15 September.
R C. Minton: The pneumatic collection, handling and transportation
of oily cuttings Two years of field experience, SPE 83727,
paper presented at the 2003 E&P Environmental Conference,
San Antonio, Texas, March 2003.

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Figure 9. Auger Transport to Slurrification Unit

Figure 10. Auger Transport to Cuttings Boxes

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Figure 11. Auger-Vacuum Transport

Figure 12. Vacuum Collection System
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Figure 13. Vacuum System for Skip and Ship

Figure 14. Pneumatic Transfer and Storage System
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Figure 15. CRI Dedicated Platform

Figure 16. Cuttings Boxes with Trash Figure 17. Equipment Failure due to Trash

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Figure 18. Lifting Crane for Cuttings Boxes Transport Figure 19. Specially Designed Tanks Installed on the Rig

Figure 20. Pneumatic Bulk Transfer from Rig to Boat Figure 21. Specially Designed Tanks in Boat