Directive 050 FAQs (Sep 2012)


Directive 050 FAQs (Sep 2012)

View PDF file which includes Table 3.3 and Table 3.5

Directive 050 – Frequently Asked Questions (September 2012)

Advanced Gel Chemical Drilling Wastes

Question: Are approvals for advanced gel chemical drilling wastes still required pursuant to Informational Letter 2001-3: Management of Drilling Wastes Associated with Advanced Gel Chemical Systems?

Answer: No. IL 2001-3 was rescinded with the publication of the 2012 edition of Directive 050. As of May 2, 2012, drilling wastes from advanced gel chemical mud systems must be managed following the requirements of the 2012 edition of Directive 050 (refer to Sections 1.1 and 1.5).

Question: What is an advanced gel chemical drilling waste?

Answer: It is a drilling waste resulting from a water-based drilling mud system in which a significant primary component such as a salt or polymer has been added to aid in the drilling program (refer to the definition in Appendix 7). Should there be any question as to whether a mud system is an advanced gel chemical system, handle it as one and follow the new requirements. Note that all requirements within the 2012 edition of Directive 050 are effective November 1, 2012.

Disclosure of Sites Used to Manage Drilling Wastes

Question: Regarding Section 1.5.2, is disclosure required for pits that have had the drilling wastes removed and managed by mix-bury-cover or landspreading, or is it just the active, open pits that require disclosure?

Answer: Refer to points 1(a) and 1(b) in the section. Disclosure is not required if

  • the sump is on a remote site and the drilling waste was removed and managed appropriately prior to May 1, 2013, or
  • as of May 1, 2013, the time period from first use of the remote site to manage drilling waste has not exceeded five years.

Note: If the five year duration has been exceeded, disclosure is still not required if the reclamation process for the site has been engaged or completed prior to May 1, 2013.

Disclosure is required if

  • the sump is on a remote site and on May 1, 2013, it will have contained drilling wastes for a period exceeding 18 months, or
  • as of May 1, 2013, the time period from the first use of the remote site to manage drilling waste (including storage) will have exceeded five years and the reclamation process for the site has not been engaged or completed.

Question: Do the disclosure requirements in Section 1.5.2 apply to only remote sites or any site used to manage drilling wastes?

Answer: The section only requires disclosure of remote sites. The intent is to obtain an inventory of remote sites that are outstanding respecting drilling waste management and to get the sites closed and reclaimed or if applicable, approved as an oilfield waste management facility.

Question: If a cleared site has been used consecutively for three to five years, with a new sump dug every fall followed by a spring mix-bury-cover of the drilling waste, would this site need to be disclosed by May 1, 2013 if the reclamation process has not been either started or completed by this time? Or is it possible to consider sump/mix-bury-cover as an independent site?

Answer: Disclosure pursuant to Section 1.5.2 is not required if the site has not been in use for longer than five years, provided there is not an open sump on it for which the drilling waste storage duration has exceeded 18 months from rig release of the first well that contributed drilling waste to the sump. While Section 6.2(8) sets out the timing for removal of drilling waste from a sump and physical a closure of the sump, the number of years that the site is being used for drilling waste storage/management also needs to be tracked as the site can only be used for five years.

Need for Directive 058 Approval of Sites Used to Manage Drilling Wastes

Question: If a drilling waste storage site is used for five years, does the licensee require ERCB approval for continued usage?

Answer: A site can be used for up to five years for drilling waste storage/management under the requirements of Directive 050. A site in use for longer than five years requires approval as an oilfield waste management facility pursuant to Directive 058: Oilfield Waste Management Requirements for the Upstream Petroleum Industry; refer to the note under Section 6.6(23).

Drilling Waste and First Nations Land

Question: Have there been any discussions with IOGC related to management of drilling wastes and consent for First Nations Lands?

Answer: The ERCB did consult with Indian Oil and Gas Canada, and the results of the discussions related to consent for management of drilling waste on First Nations Lands and reclamation of the sites are set out in Sections 1.6 and 1.7.

Drilling Waste Analysis and Related Soil Endpoints

Question: What are the drilling waste and soil nitrogen testing requirements, as there is some confusion between ammonia and ammonium?

Answer: The third footnote on Table 3.1 identifies nitrogen as being total mineral nitrogen and includes ammonia-nitrogen, nitrate-nitrogen, and nitrite-nitrogen. Respecting the ammonia-nitrogen testing requirement, some parts of Directive 050 print out the chemical formula for the ammonium-nitrogen form (NH4-N), but not the ammonia-nitrogen form (NH3-N). While ammonium and nitrate are the forms of nitrogen that plants take up from soil, many forms of nitrogen exist in soil, and the forms easily change from one to another. In addition, standard reference methods typically target both the ammonium and ammonia species by converting them to one form and analyzing both species as one and reporting the results as total ammonia-nitrogen or total N. Therefore, to meet the ammonia-nitrogen testing requirements, test for total ammonia-nitrogen (NH3 + NH4+).

Question: If a drilling waste contains amines, do the nitrogen testing requirements need to be expanded to include amines?

Answer: No. Continue to test for total mineral nitrogen, but ensure all other requirements for the disposal method being used are followed including toxicity testing.

Question: Can the hydrocarbon and metal concentrations set out in Tables 3.3 and 3.5 be recalculated and expressed as dry weight numbers?

Answer: Yes. Both tables have been expanded to express the concentrations in both dry weight and wet weight numbers. The expanded tables are located at the end of the FAQ.

Question: Are the units for dry bulk density in footnote 1 of Table 3.5 mistaken?

Answer: Yes. The dry bulk density should be 1.54 Mg/m3, which is megagram per cubic metre and not milligram (mg) per cubic metre. To avoid confusion and to be consistent with the units used for dry bulk density in other sections of Directive 050, updates to the table will present dry bulk density as 1540 kg/m3.

Question: Is a horizontal gas well considered a hydrocarbon flag?

Answer: It is not identified as one in the definition of hydrocarbon flags (refer to Appendix 7). However, the drilling waste from a horizontal gas well needs to be checked for the identified hydrocarbon flags before ruling out the presence of hydrocarbons.

Question: If a drilling waste disposal area did not meet the required soil endpoints, but the licensee remedied the issue, can the same area of land be used again for drilling waste disposal?

Answer: It depends on the drilling waste disposal method being used. Section 13.3(12)(a) and Section 14.3(14)(a) do not allow mix-bury-cover or landspreading of drilling waste on an area of land that has been previously used for drilling waste disposal.

The landspray, landspray-while-drilling, disposal onto forested Public Lands, and pump-off disposal methods can be used on areas of land that previously received drilling wastes using these methods, provided the licensee has landowner consent and the receiving soil does not exceed the initial soil salinity criteria and the maximum allowable changes from background (initial) soil conditions as set out in Table 3.1. In addition, the soil hydrocarbon and metal endpoints set out in Tables 3.2 and 3.4 can not be exceeded.

Question: Is a licensee required to demonstrate compliance with all soil endpoint criteria even when testing the drilling waste for all of the parameters was not required, or is compliance assumed on the premise that the soil endpoint criteria is met due to the absence or low concentration of the parameter(s) in the drilling waste?

Answer: Compliance would involve being able to demonstrate that testing the drilling waste for the parameter (e.g., metals, hydrocarbons, or nitrogen) was not required and hence, the need to test the soil of the disposal area for the endpoint parameter was not required. Should there be compliance issues, licensees may be required to test the soil for any or all of the endpoint parameters and conduct further work, as necessary, in the event of finding soil endpoint exceedances. In addition, should a landowner have a concern with a disposal area, the licensee responsible may be required to conduct work to assess whether the concern is related to the disposal event (e.g., a drilling waste disposal requirement was overlooked or not met) and implement remedial measures if necessary.

Question: Is the flashpoint in the note under requirement 3 in Section 17.2 correct?

Answer: No. The flashpoint should be 60.5°C as set out in the Waste Control Regulation and not 61.5°C.

Drilling Waste Storage / Sump Construction

Question: Regarding C-rings for surface mud, can a 12 mil liner be used instead of a 30 mil liner or would it depend on the nature of the waste being stored?

Answer: The ERCB uses the term “aboveground synthetically-lined wall storage system” (AWSS) to address storage systems sometimes referred to as “C-rings.” Note that the ERCB only allows AWSSs to be used to store cement returns and water-based hydraulic fracturing fluids and flowback fluids. For storage of cement returns, Section 7 of the 2012 edition of Directive 050 allows the liner of the AWSS to be 12 mil. Refer to Directive 055 – Addendum 2011-10-11 for more information about the use of AWSSs.

Question: For existing sumps, when do the new requirements of the 2012 Directive 050 take effect?

Answer: Sumps that are in use prior to November 1, 2012, must meet the 1996 edition of Directive 050, which requires sumps to be closed within 12 months of rig release. These sumps can continue to be used for the remainder of 12 month duration allowed under the 1996 edition of Directive 050. As of November 1, 2012, any new sump or a sump that is being reused will need to meet the 2012 edition of Directive 050 (refer to Section 6.6 for requirements for reuse of a sump).

Question: Do all storage systems have to be closed by the end of 18 months?

Answer: Yes, for any storage systems put in use following the 2012 edition of Directive 050; closed means that the storage system must be emptied of drilling waste and physically closed within 18 months of rig release of the first well that contributed drilling waste to it. For storage systems in use following the 1996 edition of Directive 050 (prior to November 1, 2012) the closure must occur within 12 months.

Question: Is it possible to demonstrate that soils are suitable for sump construction using permeability testing as opposed to testing for plasticity index (PI) and liquid limits (LL)?

Answer: No. Section 6.3(10)(b) sets out the soil testing requirements to determine suitable soil characteristics for sump construction and includes testing for fines and clay content in addition to PI and LL.

Question: If a sump is closed within 18 months but does not meet post disposal endpoints, what must a licensee do?

Answer: The licensee must remedy the situation. Section 6.2(8)(b) identifies that physical closure of a drilling waste storage system (e.g., sump) includes removal of the drilling waste, decontaminating (if needed) the area beneath and surrounding the sump, and backfilling/contouring the area. The objective is to close the sump in a manner that will allow the site to be restored to equivalent capability. Exceedances found after sump closure could be the result of

  • breach of sump containment and failure to decontaminate the area beneath and around the sump,
  • not having removed all of the drilling waste prior to backfilling/contouring area, or
  • in the case of managing the drilling waste using MBC in the area of the sump, inappropriate mixing or use of inappropriate mix ratios.

Licensees must handle the situation as an exceedance of soil endpoints and follow the notification procedure set out in Section 3.5. (The notification must include a plan to remedy the exceedance, which is a noncompliance event.)

Question: Can multiple licensees deposit drilling waste into one sump, conduct mix-bury-cover (MBC) disposals on one site, or use one remote site to store/manage drilling wastes?

Answer: No. Section 6.4 states that multiple wells contributing drilling waste to a storage system/sump must have the same licensee. If the storage is occurring on a remote site, the licensee must have a written agreement with the landowner for the site, and the remote site must be tied back to the licence of the well that first contributed drilling waste to the sump/storage system. MBC disposal of drilling waste can only occur on the generating well site or a remote site on which the drilling waste is stored (refer to Section 13).

Cement Returns

Question: What is an acceptable containment system for cement returns being classified for landfill disposal? Would a three sided shale bin be acceptable?

Answer: Requirements for containment of cement returns are set out in Section 7.2(1)(a) and (b); requirement (b) allows for use of aboveground portable rigid structures that will adequately contain the cement returns and prevent release into the environment. Depending on the fluid content of the cement returns, a three sided shale bin may not meet this requirement.

Question: What is the effective date for the requirements in Section 7: Management of Cement Returns, including the landowner consent requirement?

Answer: November 1, 2012. However, note that Section 2.1 of Directive 055 – Addendum 2011-10-11 has been replaced by Section 7.2(1)(a) of Directive 050 respecting use of aboveground synthetically lined wall storage systems (AWSSs) for containment of cement returns. When using AWSSs, licensees can follow either Directive 55 – Addendum 2011-10-11 or Directive 050 requirements up to November 1, 2012; after November 1, 2012, Directive 050 requirements must be followed.

Water Body and Drilling Waste Management

Question: What is the complete definition of a water body?

Answer: Definitions for Directive 050 terms, including one for a water body, can be found in Appendix 7. This definition is consistent with that in Directive 056: Energy Development Applications and Schedules.

Question: Does the ERCB consider muskeg to be a water body?

Answer: It is identified in the definition of water body (refer to Appendix 7).

Question: Are drilling waste disposals permitted on well pads constructed overtop of muskeg in situations where the berm soils and receiving soils meet the required conditions?

Answer: No. In addition to needing to adhere to the water body setback, information from ESRD identifies that most pads are about 2 m thick, and at abandonment time, the clay pad must be removed (clay is to either be reused or replaced into the borrow pit). ESRD preference is to avoid any potential to compromise the clay and to not allow drilling disposal on the pads.

Question: Are earthen berm storage systems required to meet the 100 m setback from an offsite water body?

Answer: Yes. Earthen berm storage systems are subject to the general drilling waste storage requirements set out in Section 6.2; requirement 6.2(5) addresses setback distances. Hence, the setback requirements set out in Section 6.5(19) (which is missing the 100 m setback from a water body) are redundant and will be removed in the next update to Directive 050.

Drilling Wastes from Pipelines

Question: Can multiple licensees use one parcel of land for storage or MBC disposal of drilling waste from a pipeline construction project?

Answer: No, if storage or MBC of the drilling waste is occurring on a site remote from the pipeline right-of-way (ROW), the licensee must have a written agreement with the landowner for the remote site, and the remote site must be tied back to licence and line number of the pipeline that generated the drilling waste. In addition, the licensee is obligated to reclaim the remote site. Multiple remote sites could be located on a parcel of land with one licensee being responsible for one remote site.

Note that MBC of the drilling waste can also occur on the pipeline ROW provided the surface of the pipeline ROW is disturbed (top soil removed, ROW is under construction, or has been disturbed for pipeline work) and the drilling waste is generated from the construction of the pipeline associated with the ROW (refer to Section 8).

Landspray and Landspray-While-Drilling (LWD)

Question: For landspray and LWD, what is meant by “prepare the disposal area so that the drilling waste is applied to the surface of disposal area and not onto snow accumulation?”

Answer: There have been situations where drilling waste has migrated from the disposal area as a result of it being applied to snow accumulation. Complete removal of all snow is not expected; a reasonable approach to prepare the site to prevent migration of the drilling waste should be used (e.g., remove snow until sufficient vegetation or stubble is visible to aid with retention of the drilling waste on the disposal area).

Disposal onto Forested Public Lands (DFPL)

Question: For the DFPL method, does not the requirement to blade 10 to 15 cm of surface soil contradict with the term “minimum ground disturbance (MGD)?”

Answer: Yes. The ERCB has discussed this with ESRD and ESRD has clarified that blading of soil should not be done in MGD areas. Therefore, licensees are not to follow requirement 3(a) under Section 11.2.

Question: Regarding the DFPL method, does requirement 12 within Section 11.3 contradict requirement 11 (c), (d), and (e)?

Answer: No. Requirement 11 allows DFPL to be conducted in a manner similar to LWD (e.g., opportunity to conduct sumpless drilling), but with higher drilling waste application rates. Should there be any hydrocarbon, metal, or toxicity issues, requirement 12 allows DFPL to continue to be a viable disposal method provided the waste is stored, sampled, and tested and the results comply with the direction set out in requirement 12.

Mix-Bury-Cover (MBC)

Question: Section 13 does not specify a soil texture requirement for MBC. Is it possible to conduct MBC disposals in soils that do not meet the soil characteristics for sump construction?

Answer: Yes, provided all requirements within Section 13 are met. Note that there are hydrocarbon and nitrogen soil endpoints specified for coarse and fine soils. Remember MBC is limited to occur on the well site that generated the drilling waste, a pipeline-right-of way that has a disturbed surface (provided the drilling waste is from construction of the associated pipeline), and a remote drilling waste storage site (provided the drilling waste is stored at the remote site).


Question: Is there a one metre maximum waste disposal onto land for landspreading?

Answer: The maximum drilling waste application rate for the landspreading disposal method is 1000 m3/ha or an applied thickness of 10 cm. The drilling waste is spread on the shallow subsoil of the lease and incorporated into the subsoil to a maximum depth profile of 1 m (refer to Section 14).


Question: When submitting a drilling waste remix notification, is it possible to use calculations to show that the 3:1 remix will meet the required endpoints, or can only 3:1 predictive lab mixes be used?

Answer: Section 20 requires predictive lab mixes to be used to determine the soil-to-waste mix ratio that will meet the soil endpoints set out in Tables 3.1, 3.2, and 3.4. Note that it identifies that the mix ratio must not exceed 3 parts soil to 1 part drilling waste.

Notification of Drilling Waste Disposal

Question: Is notification to the ERCB required prior to disposal of drilling waste, or is the notification now only required after disposal?

Answer: ERCB Directive 045 eliminated the paper notifications and introduced the requirement to electronically submit predisposal information through the ERCB Digital Data Submission (DDS) system, Field Surveillance Inspection System (FIS) Drilling Activity Notification Form. This requirement has been retained in the 2012 edition of Directive 050. In addition, the 2012 edition introduced the requirement to electronically submit postdisposal information (refer to Section 21.3 and 21.4).

View PDF file for Expanded Table 3.3 and Table 3.5