On October 30, 2013, the U.S. Coast Guard announced the availability of a proposed policy letter that would allow bulk transportation of shale gas extraction wastewater (SGEWW) via barge. To ensure that SGEWW is transported in compliance with the Coast Guard’s regulations governing ships and tank vessels carrying bulk liquid, liquefied gas, or compressed gas hazardous materials (46 CFR Part 153), the policy letter specifies:

  1. The conditions under which a barge owner may request and be granted a Certificate of Inspection (COI) endorsement or letter allowing the barge to transport SGEWW in bulk as Conditionally Permitted SGEWW;
  2. The information the Coast Guard may require a barge owner to provide to obtain the COI endorsement; and
  3. Additional requirements that may be imposed on barge owners carrying SGEWW on board the barge, including analyses for hazardous materials and radioisotopes to ensure the radioactivity concentration limit is below certain thresholds, venting requirements, and tank survey requirements prior to carrying a change in cargo after carrying SGEWW.

The Coast Guard is seeking comments on the requirements under consideration. If approved, this could be an economical alternative to rail and trucking for transporting shale gas extraction waste fluids to storage/reprocessing centers and UIC wells in Ohio, and as far away as Texas and Louisiana.  

Comments must be submitted to the Coast Guard by November 29, 2013.