The Challenges of Containment at Oil and Fuel Fields

Every containment situation, even for a single 55-gallon drum of oil, comes with its own challenges. Yet, the oil field itself is one of the most challenging containment situations of them all. It’s not practical to simply line the entire field and expect failproof leak control. The appropriate leak containment system is far more complex thanks to a number of complications. Here are some of the biggest challenges interfering with the operation of a secondary containment system of any kind for the oil field.

Size of the Field

The sheer size of most oil fields makes complete containment expensive to impractical. In the US over 12 million acres of Federal land are currently being used for oil and gas production, and each field can stretch over hundreds or even thousands of acres if there’s a widespread deposit to tap. It’s simply not feasible to cover that amount of ground with a continuous layer of liner material and size the containment area for every drill, rig, and tank in the area. This is the biggest reason that most oil and fuel fields need an interconnected system of separate secondary containment cells. The cells must be sized and connected to work together but should be separate enough not to overwhelm the entire system during a major leak.

Total Cost

Even when an oil field is relatively small and feasible to cover with a single containment zone, it’s often far more expensive than the owners realize. Oil fields include a higher concentration of moving equipment and special fixtures that require cutting and seam-sealing around the protrusions. This not only extensively expands the installation process, but it also increases the likeliness of leaks developing over the course of use. To control both installation and repair costs, it’s better to create multiple smaller containment areas around the drills and rigs as needed.

Gas and Oil Reactivity

Petroleum products in general, but especially gas and oil, are known for their corrosive and reactive characteristics. Many materials simply break down too easily when exposed to petroleum products on a regular basis. Even if you plan to pump or drain out the secondary containment area as soon as possible, some amount of exposure is unavoidable. All of the materials used for primary and secondary containment of oil and fuel must have resistance to this breakdown. Most polymers used for flexible pond liners, react badly to gas and oil because they’re also based on petroleum. Other materials, like RPE, are petroleum-based but easily adapted for gas and oil use with the right design.

Traffic and Equipment

It’s far easier to lay out containment basins that aren’t used for vehicle or foot traffic in a storage facility than an active oil field. Vehicles and workers have to constantly get close to the active equipment or storage tanks in order to service them and transfer fluids. This means that the containment areas built around them must be able to withstand all the extra traffic without developing leaks or cracks. Stick to durable reinforced liners like RPE to ensure that they last through years of heavy-duty use.

Distance Between Rigs or Tanks

In a storage facility, there’s a lot of emphasis placed on leaving access space open between tanks and other fixtures. The opposite is usually true on the open oil field because operators are trying to maximize the amount of equipment they’re placing per acre. Once you add in all the piping and tanks needed for each gas or oil derrick, it’s not surprising there’s little space left for adding in the containment features. Liners are often added after the wells are drilled, making it a challenge to work around and under so much established equipment. Flexible liners, that are easy to cut and sealed again as needed, are essential for installations like these.

Remote Location

Finally, most oil fields are located far from the resources that make it easier to build containment measures. With oil reserves often concentrated in areas where few materials are locally available, it’s often necessary to ship the right liners in from a source serving the global market. BTL Liners can help you get our high-quality liners to the most remote oil field projects so you don’t have to deal with the limitations of local markets.

Despite being challenging, secondary containment is just as essential at the oil field as anywhere else. Allowing spills to contaminate the surrounding environment will eventually result in fines and remediation costs that far outweigh the expenses of installing proper containment. Choose BTL Liners for durable RPE liners that can withstand the rigors of the oil field environment.


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ArmorPro is built with the toughest materials for absolute and total containment.

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