Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Soil Farming Not Harmful If Rules Are Followed

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Soil Farming Not Harmful If Rules Are Followed

Article excerpt

On a bright, wind-whipped morning, Pete Garza guides his truck gently over a wheat field. It's early March, so the winter wheat crop has only emerged from the soil as green tufts.

He pushes a series of buttons and flips a switch next to the computer screen mounted in the cab, and brown liquid sprays from the back of the tank. The liquid reeks of petroleum.

Garza covers a swath of the green wheat with the smelly mixture, driving about 3 mph, careful to cover the land evenly. He closes the valve and guides the truck back to the gravel road, headed back to the oil well site. In a single day, he can spray as many as 30 or as few as five loads of a chemical cocktail on farmland.

As long as Garza follows the computer-plotted lines, he can safely spread petroleum chemicals on agricultural land all day, with no threat to the public. (Read more about the new computer-guided system for this process.) Land application is the most sustainable alternative for oil waste disposal, said Oklahoma State University professor Chad Penn.

"But it has to be done right," he said.

Garza drives a truck for J&L Oilfield Services, spreading a liquid mix of water and chemicals, byproducts of oil and gas drilling. The process of commercial land application, colloquially referred to as soil farming, was developed in the late 1980s by former OSU agronomy professor Billy Tucker.

For drillers, the goal is to find a safer, more efficient way to dispose of oil-field waste. Previously, drillers dug lined reserve pits near a well site and buried mud. Large commercial disposal pits are another way to dispose of large amounts of waste, or waste from several wells.

"In my professional opinion, with a reserve pit or a commercial disposal pit, you are burying a time bomb," Penn said. "The question is when it will go off."

As drillers combine horizontal drilling with hydraulic fracturing techniques, wells are deeper, generating more waste. …

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