As a result of Bakken development, a number of salt water disposal facilities have popped up throughout North Dakota and Montana.
Highly saline water or brine is a byproduct of the drilling process, and must be disposed of properly.
Lightning a Threat to Salt Water Disposal Tanks
At disposal facilities, brine and oil residue are stored in tanks, where the oil is skimmed off the top, and then brine is injected into the ground. This necessary practice has come under fire - literally - from lightning strikes. Since the Bakken boom began, lightning has been linked to the cause of multiple fires involving salt water disposal tanks, according to officials.
Salt water disposal tanks, which are generally constructed of fiberglass, are more prone to catching fire if struck by lightning. The reasons tanks catch fire experts say are because of the volatile gasses that collect in them from the oil residue mixed in with the brine and their fiberglass and other construction components.
What's the Solution?
The logical answer it seems would be to build the tanks out of more lightning resistant material, however, industry experts caution that isn't cost effective. For instance, steel tanks, which would be better suited to a lightning strike, are subject to the corrosive nature of the brine. Fiberglass tanks are much better suited to corrosion, and last longer.
Another more cost effective solution is to fortify the fiberglass tanks to make them resistant to lightning strikes. These fortifications are costly, but not nearly as costly compared to the damage caused by a direct hit from a lightning strike.
Despite the risk, some companies in the Bakken oil patch are willing to hedge their bets that a lightning strike will not hit their storage tank. But the simple truth is lightning wins the match every time when it hits a susceptible tank.
Read more on this subject at oilpatchdispatch.areavoices.com