The main purpose of this research is to study closely the economic impact of the current set limits for discharging oily water to the sea. A comparison between costs of meeting the current specifications versus real benefits as to minimise environmental impact on marine life is essential. The current Egyptian regulations for discharging oily water in the sea call for a maximum of J 5 ppm oil-in-water (according to Law 4, 1994). International standards call for a maximum of 40 ppm, which will eventually decrease to 25 ppm by 2006. The rationale behind setting up the limit to a maximum of 15 ppm has not been evaluated previously. The intention of this research work is to verify the need for such a highly restrictive limit. The research has been confined to the Gulf of Suez, being a major oil exploratory zone, as well as a globally-recognised tourist attraction. Its rich marine life ranks it as one of the most sensitive environmental locations in the world. Findings have been ranked according to importance and criticality towards Gulf of Suez oil and gas production operations, and categorised under 'political', 'technical' or 'commercial'. It is clear that although extensive research in this field has taken place, there is no globally recognised set of standards to govern the process of produced water disposal. From an international perspective, limits and regulations should be controlled and monitored by the governments of the individual countries within their regional waters. The body having jurisdiction should set all permissible levels. Producers and operators should then comply by the levels set by the government or their own standards, if more stringent (to avoid "double-standard" charges/criticism). Therefore, the task remains mostly in the hands of the operator and the host government, which should evaluate the environmental sensitivity of the receiving body (i.e. sea, river, lake, canal) and judge accordingly. Furthermore, environmentally sensitive areas within the Red Sea have been least affected by oil and gas produced water discharges. The main threat to life in the Red Sea is oil lost by ships, from dredging and construction, and from the wastes produced by the big industrial plants being built in the coastal zone. The focus on oil spill emergency response is justified, and the Egyptian General Petroleum Corporation's (EGPC) strategy to develop response centres and training programs is expected to contain the threat to sensitive ecology of the region.

On the technical side, emphasis on the overall monthly or yearly quantities discharged (i.e., loadings) rather than daily concentration of the oil-in-water discharges is considered the best approach in managing discharges to a marine body. In addition, dispersed oil is not the only constituent that contributes to the toxicity of the effluents . s ome pro d ,.; uc"on c h em1ca · I s, w h' 1c h are harder to detect, are more polluting to the receiving body than dispersed oil. The use of such chemicals in some cases is promoted by the drive to reduce oil-in-water content, though it may increase the overall toxicity of the produced water. Highest concentration of dispersed oil will exist in the vicinity ( 100 m.) of offshore installations in the Gulf of Suez. For example, the water column surrounding a platfo1m discharging 10,000 barrels per day of produced water will reach a 4 ppm concentration of oil-in-water after l O years with continuous discharge at 25 ppm. The risk assessment modelling completed as part of this research has confirmed that adopting a discharge requirement of 25 ppm (max) will have negligible impact on environmentally sensitive areas and national reserves in the Gulf of Suez. The change compared to the current 15-ppm is not expected to affect marine life in the region. Most of the oil to sea will exit the ecosystem or deposit in the sediments, with negligible effect on water quality. Finally, from a commercial perspective, treatment of produced water to levels lower than 15 ppm can cost operators between 5 to 6 times over the normal industry practice for 40 ppm. This renders associated environmental gain unjustifiable. A direct saving between $30 million to $50 million per year on cost of treatment of produced water as a result of shifting to a 25-ppm limit can be achieved by producers and shared with EGPC. The savings can then be targeted to better use on more critical environ.mental challenges, i.e. waste treatment, drinking water, air pollution, that are facing the country. Relaxed discharge criteria can aid operators in Egypt to dedicate their limited capital resources to development of new fields, which, if brought on stream, can produce more oil at lower water cuts, hence, reducing load of old field emissions on the environment. ln summary, relaxing discharge criteria to 25 ppm (which is the current global industry aspiration) for new fields will have a negligible impact on the environmental conditions and almost no negative impact on the biological or marine life in the Gulf of Suez.


School of Sciences and Engineering


Interdisciplinary Engineering Program

Date of Award


Online Submission Date


First Advisor

Edward Smith

Committee Member 1

Salma Galal

Committee Member 2

Abdallah Bazaraa

Committee Member 3

Safwan Khedr

Document Type



110 leaves :

Library of Congress Subject Heading 1

Marine pollution

Library of Congress Subject Heading 2



The author retains all rights with regard to copyright. The author certifies that written permission from the owner(s) of third-party copyrighted matter included in the thesis, dissertation, paper, or record of study has been obtained. The author further certifies that IRB approval has been obtained for this thesis, or that IRB approval is not necessary for this thesis. Insofar as this thesis, dissertation, paper, or record of study is an educational record as defined in the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) (20 USC 1232g), the author has granted consent to disclosure of it to anyone who requests a copy.

Call Number

Thesis 2002/84