Spills at oil and gas sites are bad news. They can pose a significant risk to the team working on the site, contaminate the immediate environment, and even have the potential to create long-term health issues in the surrounding regions. That’s why the Environmental Protection Agency or EPA has strict regulations in place for oil and gas companies to follow. Part of these EPA regulations includes the use of secondary spill containment as part of the oil containment solution.
Here’s an extract from the regulatory document regarding secondary spill containment: “At a regulated facility, all areas and equipment with the potential for discharge are subject to the general secondary containment provision. These may include bulk storage containers; mobile/portable containers; mobile refuelers and other non-transportation-related tank trucks; oil production tank batteries, treatment, and separation installations; pieces of oil-filled operational or manufacturing equipment; loading/unloading areas (also referred to as transfer areas); and piping; and may include other areas of a facility where oil is present.”
The need for secondary oil and gas containment is quite evident. One of the most effective and popular means to ensure secondary oil spill containment is through the use of containment berms.
Oil Spill Containment Berms
Oil spill containment berms provide an additional layer of protection over sensitive equipment on job sites and offer a simple, yet effective means of preventing accidental spills from spreading. Berms are lightweight and flexible and can be easily moved around and positioned as per your needs. They come in a variety of different materials, offer resistance against various types of chemicals and are easy to repair too. Because of all these positive attributes, berms are widely used in different scenarios at an oil and gas site. Here are some of the applications of spill containment berms:
- Portable Tanks: Portable tanks are often used at oil and gas sites to transport the oil or bring in fracking water. They can also help remove and dispose of chemicals and safely transport wastewater. When they are parked on-site to be loaded or unloaded, the risk of spillage is high, so containment berms are typically laid out over the area where these portable tanks are usually parked as an added frac tank containment precaution.
- Bulk Storage: Large containers are kept on-site for permanent storage as well. These containers also require secondary spill containment solutions, as per EPA regulations. Berms are typically used to help provide an additional layer of protection and safety from spills around these bulk storage containers.
- Heavy Equipment: Heavy equipment is typically used to operate the drills or pump in water at fracking sites and on oil rigs. This equipment can malfunction and leak, causing a lot of contamination in the process. It is common practice to place this equipment on top of berms to ensure that any leakage is immediately contained at the source.
- Maintenance Sections: When equipment, drills, or machinery needs maintenance, they are sometimes moved to a specific part of the job site allocated to that purpose. This maintenance area also uses berms to prevent residual oil or other chemicals from mixing with the soil.
- Drilling and Fracking Sites: Berms are also placed around drills and fracking wells to catch any excess spillage from the machinery. With drills, you could have excess oil leaking out due to a faulty seal or leaking pipe. With fracking, the flow back of the chemically treated water used could leak, or there could be oil leakages from the extraction process as well. Berms tend to be used as a means of protection against these eventualities.
Berms are used in so many different ways as a means of spill containment at oil and gas industry sites. But what size of berms do you typically require? The EPA offers guidelines for that as well. The equipment or containers in question need to fit within the berm to ensure you meet guidelines completely. Furthermore, if there is more than one container, the berm must be able to contain either 10% of the total volume of the containers or be able to contain the entire volume of the largest of the containers in question, whichever is greater.