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Texas firm to build oil waste facility

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JAL — A New Mexico first is coming to southern Lea County with construction of a new type of oilfield waste management facility 14 miles west of Jal.

Milestone Environmental Services, with offices in Houston and Midland, announced the company has received permits from the New Mexico Oil Conservation Division (NMOCD) to establish an oilfield slurry injection and solid waste disposal facility.

“Milestone is an oilfield waste management company,” Milestone CEO Gabriel Rio told the News-Sun. “We were founded in 2014 and … we’ve been building the infrastructure to help oil and gas operators manage their waste streams in a more professional way. We’ve been building in the Permian since 2016, but all on the Texas side.”

The company’s website shows locations of several facilities from Pecos to Big Spring in the Permian Basin and south of San Antonio in the Eagle Ford Shale, with a poten tial location west of Jal.

“We’ve been working for a couple of years to come into New Mexico but the permitting process in New Mexico takes time. It was about two-year process for us,” Rio said.

Rio explained why Milestone is considered first of its kind in the state.

“I think New Mexico is familiar with oil and gas waste landfills. And there are landfills in New Mexico that have been taking some of these waste streams for some time,” Rio said. “But this is the first slurry injection permit that the NMOCD has issued.”

He explained he type of oilfield wastes his company handles excludes the produced water currently in another controversial discussion.

“When you drill for oil and gas, you produce a lot of different waste streams. Some of it is produced water. That comes from the production of oil and gas,” Rio said. “The waste that we’re taking is really dirtier stuff. It’s spent drilling fluid, like oil-based mud and water-based mud. We’re taking tank bottom sludge that’s built up in the bottom of production tanks. We’re taking drill cuttings, as well.”

The Milestone Environmental injection process removes oilfield waste from the environment.

Rio said, “Our slurry injection process takes these contaminated waste streams and oily waste streams and inject them back into the earth and permanently putting them away, in this case about 6,000-7,000 feet deep, beneath a mile of rock that’s in between any usable groundwater and where this waste will permanently reside.

“We’re taking contaminants out of the environment by injecting it where it’s never going to harm anyone. I think it’s about the most safe and secure method of oilfield waste disposal that we’ve been able to find,” Rio concluded.

He emphasized a double advantage for oil and gas company customers.

“We chose our slurry injection process because of its environmental benefits,” Rio said. “It’s also got a favorable cost structure, so we can help our customers both save money, which is really important today with everything going on in the market, and by having a disposal close to where they are operating, we can also help them reduce their environmental footprint, which is a big deal for oil and gas companies these days.”

Construction of the facility will take about six months with 150-200 employees, but officials at Milestone have yet to determine when construction will begin. After the facility is built, 15-25 employees will staff it.

“We’re going to be calling it our Battle Ax Facility because it is close to the intersection of NM 128 and Battle Ax Road,” Rio said. “And we like the name.”

The benefit Milestone brings to the State of New Mexico is the first method of oilfield waste disposal in the state that is carbon negative, according to the company’s CEO.

“This actually reduces carbon emissions from the oilfield,” Rio said. “A lot of our customers, including some of the larger oil and gas companies, have made statements that they want to reduce their carbon footprint by some date in the future. We can help them do that by taking their oily waste streams and injecting them underground and very directly reducing emissions.”

Rio said he understands why the permitting process with the OCD took two years.

“They wanted to be careful that they were partnering with the right folks, that we do our jobs well and our process was going to be safe and sound. So, we just finished that process with the state in the last few weeks,” he said.

“We’re happy to partner with the state and come in to help our customers reduce their environmental impact and save some money in the process. That’s really why we’re in business and why Milestone has been able to grow so quickly over the last few years,” Rio concluded. “We’re excited to get into New Mexico where environmental standards are rightfully high.”

Curtis Wynne may be contacted at reporter3@hobbsnews.com .

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