Because onshore oil and gas facilities are not allowed to discharge wastes to navigable waters, surface discharge is only practiced at coastal facilities. In some states indirect surface discharge is practiced by simple dilution through an existing municipal or industrial wastewater treatment facility .
The main pollutant of concern for brine discharge is oil and grease (O&G). However, other pollutants may be important if they violate state-set water quality criteria for local water bodies. Michalczyk et al.  suggested a typical production water treatment system to meet the criteria of the California Ocean Plan. As shown in Fig. 11, treatment processes include equalization, oil removal by flotation, pH adjustment, and activated sludge. Experimental results obtained by Michalczyk et al. indicate that biological treatment effectively reduces BOD/COD and phenol in oilfield produced waters to acceptable levels, but nitrification can be inhibited by inorganic or biologically refractory organic compounds. Wang et al.  reported the use of hydrocarbon deterioration bacteria with gas lift processing to treat oily produced water. With oil content above 300 mg/L, COD of 250-480 mg/L, the treated water has 10 mg/L of oil and less than 120 mg/L of COD. A special group of bacteria named WS3 were selected for treatment testing after an elaborate screening process.
Palmer et al.  reported the results of two pilot field studies of treating oilfield produced water by biodisks in southern California. The TDS concentration of the produced water was 20,000 mg/L. The results indicate that dissolved organics and ammonium compounds can be
removed by biological oxidation in a biodisk unit to meet California Ocean Plan criteria. Earlier, Beyer et al.  demonstrated the feasibility of biological oxidation by aerated lagoons to remove dissolved compounds such as ammonia and phenols from produced waters. Ali et al.  conducted laboratory and field tests to successfully demonstrate that a two-stage filtration process can effectively reduce oil and grease content in offshore discharged produced water. The first stage (Crudesorb) removes dispersed oil and grease droplets, and the second stage (polymeric resin) removes dissolved hydrocarbons, aliphatic carboxylic acids, cyclic carboxylic acids, aromatic carboxylic acids, and phenolic compounds.
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