Traditionally, pollution control technology involved processing waste until it was benign enough for discharge into the environment. This was achieved through dilution, destruction, separation or concentration.
Research and development efforts are now underway around the world to promote the concept of Zero Discharge or Zero Emissions, which is the key to sustainable development. With this paradigm, conversion technologies are used to create “designer wastes” that meet the input specifications of other industries (recycling) or processes are re-engineered to produce zero waste.
Many companies are finding it not only responsible but also advantageous to explore ways of moving beyond compliance, using pollution prevention strategies to improve environmental performance. Examples of achievements made in the upstream sector of the oil and gas industry:
- Suncor Energy’s Zero Liquid Discharge process for recycling water for steam generation.
- Belgrave Resources Ltd’s air injection based oil recovery process (ZEDAITM) recycles the produced combustion gases back into the reservoir, resulting in zero atmospheric emission.
- Statoil's reuse of 67 percent of oil-based and 50 percent of water-based drilling mud.
Natural resource exploitation and associated waste generation have accelerated tremendously in recent years placing enormous stress on ecosystems. Although development is necessary to meet the needs of growing populations and increasing sophisticated societies, it must be sustainable.