The U.S. oil and gas boom may be sweeping the nation, but it’s also producing a lot of garbage, and Houston-based Waste Management is expanding to clean it up.
North America’s largest waste company said this month it has acquired two businesses working in North Dakota that it will expand to help oil companies manage their refuse from the Bakken Shale play there.
Waste Management already serves oil companies in other plays, especially the Marcellus Shale region in Pennsylvania and New York.
Like other companies in the industry, it is working to find ways to meet the growing demand for environmental services from oil companies, which need to treat and dispose of oily drill cuttings, wastewater and large quantities of mud, among other needs.
“I think it’s clearly a large growth opportunity,” said Harry Lamberton, vice president of energy and environmental services for WMI, in an interview with the Houston Chronicle in December.
Waste Management said it acquired Summit Energy Services and Liquid Logistics, two North Dakota companies that don’t specialize in environmental services now. Summit works on well pad construction and maintenance, while Liquid Logistics works with tanks.
But WMI chose to pick up the companies and their capabilities with the idea of expanding them to perform the same environmental services business that Waste Management already provides in other areas, Lamberton said in an interview this month.
A similar effort to expand oil industry-oriented waste services prompted Waste Connections, based in The Woodlands, to buy Houston’s R360 Environmental Solutions for $1.3 billion last year.
WMI’s acquisitions will give it 140 employees in the Bakken region “and services including roustabout and oil well-site maintenance, road and well-site pad construction, storm water and erosion control management, aggregate crushing and sales, well monitoring pumping and more,” according to a news release.
WMI plans to use the companies’ corporate infrastructures as a foundation for its waste-oriented services, Lamberton said.
‘’We were looking for the right kind of partner that had the same kind of focus on safety and compliance and the same culture of integrity that we have,” he said.
Waste Management’s most comprehensive existing oil industry environmental services offering, in the Marcellus region, aims to reduce the environmental effects of oil and gas wells, Lamberton said.
One of its services there, for example, uses waste heat from oil industry operations to evaporate water from mud and other materials that go into and out of a well, he said.
‘’It goes through a process where the technology we have, which will evaporate the liquid portion, consolidates resulting solids that you might have and then we haul that to the landfill,” Lamberton said. “You’re taking 10 trucks, 20 trucks and turning it into just one truck that ultimately has to leave the site.”
The process manages waste better while cutting down on the emissions and traffic typically involved with high levels of truck loads at well sites, Lamberton said.
Other services can include sorting and hauling waste, cleaning up spills, and cleaning rigs before they relocate.
‘’We’re bringing to North Dakota a much more sophisticated approach,” Lamberton said, “with different technologies, different approaches into that market to meet the environmental needs out there.”