Understanding the entire range of wastewater management and disposal alternatives can be a daunting task, particularly as increasingly stringent surface water discharge standards take effect or as zero discharge facilities find the management of their waste liquid needs changing over time. Former solutions are no longer options or may be too costly. One alternative that is rapidly gaining traction is deep injection wells.
Deep well injection is a viable leachate management option in many parts of the United States, yet it is often screened out as a possible alternative due to a lack of understanding of the technology or gross misconceptions about its acceptance or applicability. The purpose of the Monte Markley’s paper The Basics of Deep Well Injection as a Leachate Disposal Option is to present the basic technical, economic and regulatory considerations of deep well injection as a technology a facility should evaluate when considering the applicability of geologic sequestration of leachate.
Technical criteria discussed are potential disposal volumes, geologic suitability, chemical compatibility, pre-treatment requirements, and leachate chemistry. The economic considerations are evaluated based on the technical criteria noted above, management of public perception/relations, current leachate management expenditures, the service life of the asset and risk to develop accurate capital, O&M costs, and return on investment. Regulatory considerations include the role of state vs. federal primacy for each state, the general stance of regulatory acceptance in specific areas of the United States, and a discussion of the permitting process and typical reporting requirements.
These key considerations are then integrated into an overall suitability evaluation that an owner can utilize to accurately determine if deep well injection is a viable option and, if so, how to educate other stakeholders and manage the process of implementation as a project moves forward.
About the Author: Monte Markley, PG, SCS Engineers
High-pressure injection of liquids can be challenging in Class I wells where depths exceed 10,000 feet and extreme temperature variations occur between injection and shut-in conditions. Elevated downhole temperatures at these depths create a high-temperature differential between the injectate and annular fluid resulting in significant swings of annulus pressure and surface seal pot volumes. One-way micro tubing leaks at joints have also occurred due to these conditions.
The injectate cools the annular fluid resulting in contraction of the annular liquid and lowering of the seal pot volume, which requires the addition of fluid into the annulus. Once the wells are shut in, annular pressures rise as the annulus fluid is warmed by the native formation fluid, creating an increased pressure differential on the downhole components and increasing the seal pot volume and potentially creating high-pressure situations in the annulus. In addition to the labor-intensive operation of having to add and remove liquid from the annular space, greater downhole pressure differentials may affect long-term integrity of the injection tubing and protective casing.
Maintenance of an annulus pressure that is less than the injection pressure, similar to the operation of more shallow Class I wells, is impractical under the operating scenario for deeper wells. It also creates the potential for fluid migration from the tubing into the annular space in the event of a leak.
Monte Markley, P.G., and Stephanie Hill will present this and more at the 2018 Underground Injection Control (UIC) Conference. The presentation will focus on the design and implementation of an innovative high-pressure annulus monitoring system that mitigates the presence of micro tubing leaks in joints, and pressure and temperature swings of the annulus.