Waste Management expands reach to Bakken region

A methane gas wellhead extracts gas from the Waste Management Atascocita landfill facility. The gas is pipped to the power plant facility's power plant where it is turned into electricity. (Photo: Nathan Lindstrom/Special to the Chronicle)
A methane gas wellhead extracts gas from the Waste Management Atascocita landfill facility. The gas is pipped to the power plant facility’s power plant where it is turned into electricity. (Photo: Nathan Lindstrom/Special to the Chronicle)

The U.S. oil and gas boom may be sweeping the nation, but it’s also producing a lot of garbage, and Houston-based Waste Management is expanding to clean it up.

North America’s largest waste company said Thursday it had acquired two businesses working in North Dakota that it will expand to help oil companies manage their refuse from the Bakken Shale play.

Waste Management already serves oil companies in other plays, especially  the Marcellus shale region in Pennsylvania and New York.

The waste giant, like other companies in the industry, is working to find ways to meet the growing demand for environmental services from oil companies, which need to treat and dispose of oily drill cuttings, waste water and large quantities of mud, among other needs.

“I think it’s clearly a large growth opportunity,” said Harry Lamberton, vice president of energy and environmental services for Waste Management, in an interview with FuelFix in December.

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Waste Management said it acquired Summit Energy Services and Liquid Logistics, two North Dakota companies that do not currently specialize in environmental services. Summit works on well pad construction and maintenance, while Liquid Logistics works with tanks. But Waste Management chose to pick up the companies and their capabilities with the hopes of expanding them to  perform the same environmental services business that Waste Management already provides in other areas, Lamberton said.  The companies did not disclose financial details of the deals.

A similar effort to expand oil industry-oriented waste services prompted The Woodlands-based Waste Connections to buy Houston’s R360 Environmental Solutions for $1.3 billion last year.

With the latest deals, Waste Management will expand into the booming Bakken region.

The acquisitions will give Waste Management 140 employees in the area “and services including roustabout and oil well-site maintenance, road and well-site pad construction, storm water and erosion control management, aggregate crushing and sales, well monitoring pumping and more,” according to a news release. Waste Management plans to use the companies’ corporate infrastructures as a foundation upon which it will add on its waste-oriented services, Lamberton said.

“We were looking for the right kind of partner that had the same kind of focus on safety and compliance and the same culture of integrity that we have,” he said.

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Waste Management’s most comprehensive oil industry environmental services offering, in the Marcellus region, aims to reduce the environmental effects of oil and gas wells, Lambert said.

One of its services there, for example, works to reduce truck traffic and waste by  using waste heat from oil industry operations to evaporate water from mud and other messy materials that go into and out of a well, he said.

“It goes through a process where the technology we have, which will evaporate the liquid portion, consolidates what is kind of any resulting solids that you might have and then we haul that to the landfill,” Lamberton said. “You’re taking 10 trucks, 20 trucks and turning it into just one truck that ultimately has to leave the site.”

The effort not only helps manage waste smarter, but cuts down on the emissions and traffic typically involved with high levels of truck loads at well sites, he said in the December interview.

Other services can include sorting and hauling waste, cleaning up spills, and cleaning rigs before they relocate, he said.

But Summit and Liquid Logistics do not currently offer any of those environmental services, so Waste Management will be adding those capabilities in the Bakken area, as well as expanding the two companies’ well pad- and tank-related services to other regions, Lamberton said.

When Waste Management completes the change, it will be a competitive provider of environmental services to energy companies in the Bakken area because it will offer more services than others, Lamberton said.

“We’re bringing to North Dakota a much more sophisticated approach with different technologies, different approaches into that market to meet the environmental needs out there,” he said. “The folks up there in the exploration and production space are now going to have access to a much more sophisticated environmental services offering to what they’ve had access to before.”