Newalta’s industrial facility in Foxtrap is ready to start processing offshore drilling mud.
The ability to treat the mud — a byproduct of oil exploration and development — is something new for the province. The treatment will essentially break the mud down into water, oil and solids and allow for disposal.
Until now, drilling mud has been sent off-island for processing.
As The Telegram reported July 18, Crosbie Industrial Services Ltd. — part of Envirosystems Inc. out of Dartmouth, N.S. — is also expanding its capabilities when it comes to handling drilling mud in this province.
A proposal from that company to install the required processing equipment, at its site on Logy Bay Road in St. John’s, has passed environmental assessment.
“It’s something that the industry needs here in Newfoundland as the offshore ramps up,” said Newalta branch manager Stephen Wiseman, who offered The Telegram a look at his company’s new equipment with a tour of the Foxtrap site Thursday.
The facility employs 30 people. Subcontractors are also employed, particularly for transports.
The site itself has been used for waste transfers for almost 15 years. It was acquired by Newalta in 2006.
The company has spent more than $4 million on recent upgrades — to better handle and hold industrial wastes. That includes everything from blown transformers to used batteries, oils and lubricants. A few transformers and orderly lines of barrels of chemical waste were visible inside the site’s main building.
The building is designed for containment and control.
Of the recent site upgrades by the company, about $3 million was put into an expansion of the main building, including a floor sloping towards the centre to control spills, an advanced fire-suppression system, gas-detection systems and an explosion-resistant “bulking room” where chemicals are re-packaged for transport.
Specifically for the offshore oil industry, in a protected yard behind the main building, more than $1 million of the company’s recent investment has gone into the new drilling mud centrifuge and processing equipment.
“Previously, there was no treatment or disposal options for the offshore drilling mud in Newfoundland and the drilling mud was transported to our Beech Hill facility,” he said. That facility is in Nova Scotia, southeast of Antigonish.
Less shipping means smaller risk
With some industry-specific terms, Wiseman explained less shipping of offshore waste will mean less of a risk of spill in-transit and less of an overall environmental footprint.
“So we actually have our approval in place, the setup is complete and were now in the stages of starting our separation process,” he said.
The breakdown of drilling mud is nothing new for Newalta, but it is new to this province.
“I’ve been with Newalta now for almost 15 years and I’ve worked with the centrifuge process since ’99,” Wiseman said.
He began working with drilling waste at the company’s facility in Grande Prairie, Alta.
Originally from Springdale, he started working in Alberta with heavy equipment. When he signed on with Newalta, he said, he stuck with the company because of an emphasis on safety, paired with opportunity for more training and advancement.
“That knowledge and (centrifuge) expertise ... has really opened a door for me to come back and prosper, back home here in Newfoundland in the offshore business,” he said.
His wife is also from Newfoundland and Labrador. He said they met in Alberta.
Wiseman is not the only one at the Foxtrap facility from Newfoundland and Labrador to have worked in the oil and gas industry in Alberta and elsewhere.
“It’s good to see people are coming back for work,” he said.
The Telegram checked in with an employee nearby. Decked out in the site-standard blue coveralls, white hard hat and safety glasses, Newfoundlander Bruce Welcher said he has been working at the site for about a year now.
“I like the Newalta way,” he said. “(It’s) very safety oriented, very career oriented, a lot of growth potential — you’re recognized for your merits.”