Reclamation Plants

One of the most important Commission goals is to ensure that Texas natural resources are not wasted. As a result, reclamation from oil and gas waste streams is highly encouraged.

Tank bottoms are one of the most common sources of reclaimed oil. Tank bottoms, sometimes referred to as basic sediment and water or BS&W, are material that accumulates in the bottoms of producing lease tanks and pipeline storage tanks. Particulates from oil settle out and over time form a mixture of sediment, rust, and oil on the bottom of the tank. These tank bottoms can be sent to a Reclamation Plant with an “R-9” permit issued by the Railroad Commission of Texas to separate the waste from any reclaimable oil.

Reclamation of tank bottoms and other hydrocarbon wastes can be done using separation by heat or mechanical separation. Using a heat source, the operator can separate oil from the oil and gas waste by utilizing the hydrocarbon's boiling point which is lower than the surrounding solids. A 3-phase centrifuge can also be used to move the mixture rapidly in a circle causing the mixture to separate by each constituent's density.

Statewide Rule 57 governs permitting and operation of Reclamation Plants. Note that this is not applicable to the recycling or reusing of drilling mud, which requires a permit to operate a Commercial Mud Recycling Facility under Chapter 4, Subchapter B. Reclamation Plants may only receive tank bottoms and “other hydrocarbon wastes” such as skim oil and crude oil or condensate associated with pipeline ruptures and other spills. Receipt and treatment of any other wastes will require additional permits. Many commercial waste treatment and recycling facilities recover and sell oil as part of their processes, and require a Reclamation Plant permit in addition to their other permits. If you are applying for such a facility, you may submit the Form R-9 as part of your full facility permit application.

A permit to operate a reclamation plant is not transferable. A new permit must be obtained by the new operator by submitting a complete application. A permit to operate a reclamation plant does not have an expiration term, but if any other permits are associated with the reclamation plant (such as a pit or waste separation facility), then those associated permits must still be renewed as required by the permit conditions. Any changes to the facility must be approved by permit amendment before implementation. The reclamation permit may be cancelled if the facility has been inactive for 12 months.

Prior to submitting an application for any permit, an applicant (also referred to as the “operator”) must have an active Organization Report (Form P-5) with the Railroad Commission of Texas (RRC). You can contact the P-5 Department at 512-463-6772 for any questions regarding the Form P-5.

Once an application package has been submitted, only minor modifications or staff-recommended amendments will be accepted during the review process. If the original application is fundamentally revised, the application must be withdrawn, and a new application may be filed.

According to Statewide Rule §1.201(4), an applicant may make no more than two supplemental filings to complete an application. If the application is still incomplete, Technical Permitting shall administratively deny the application and no additional submissions will be accepted or reviewed.

Please note that the application format has been updated as of February 2022. New applications must be submitted using the following application format.

  1. Submit a Form R-9. The Instructions for the Form R-9 can be found here.
  2. Each organization performing activities subject to the jurisdiction of the Commission must maintain a current Organization Report (Form P-5) on file with the Commission’s Austin Office. Provide the following information, which must be consistent with the P-5 Organization Report:
    • Operator name
    • Address
    • Phone number
    • Contact person
  1. Provide the following property information for the proposed facility site:
    • The coordinates for the center of the site (decimal degrees.)
    • The name, physical address, mailing address, and telephone number of the surface owner(s) of the property.
    • Provide a signed copy of the surface lease agreement (legal document) with the surface owner if the facility operator does not own the property. The surface owner must be listed on the County’s Appraisal District’s website and the operator’s name on the lease agreement must match the P-5 information. The agreement must authorize the proposed operations in the application.
  1. Provide the following siting and environmental information for the proposed facility site:
    • Specify whether the site is in a flood-prone area, or FEMA flood plain. Sites that are located within the 100-year flood plain will not be approved.
    • Specify whether the site is in a wetland. If a wetland is identified, the applicant is required to submit a copy of an U.S. Army Corps of Engineer (USACE) Wetlands Permit or Permit Application or get a jurisdictional determination letter from the USACE. Determination letters generally take 60 to 90 days.
  1. Submit a list of types and volumes of wastes to be accepted.
  2. Describe the treating process step by step. Identify how incoming waste is received and stored, the process (heat or mechanical) used to separate the oil, where the separated oil and waste will be stored, and where all residual waste solids and liquids will be taken for disposal.
  3. If a centrifuge or other mechanical equipment will be used, provide the capacity and manufacturer’s specifications.
  4. Submit Safety Data Sheets (SDS) for any chemicals used in the separation process.
  5. Submit a draft Spill Prevention, Control, and Countermeasure (SPCC) plan for the facility.
  6. Submit a site plan or schematic diagram that shows the facility boundaries including fences, roads, and any paved areas. Equipment, tanks, and secondary containment must be shown. Tanks should be labeled with the size, contents, and tank material (metal, fiberglass, etc.).
  7. Submit a description of the type and thickness of liners (e.g., fiberglass, steel, concrete), if any, for all tanks, silos, pits, pads, storage areas/cells, and secondary containment. All storage tanks containing fluid waste or fuel must be contained within dikes.  Secondary containment of 120% total storage capacity is recommended, however a firewall capacity that will capture 100% of the volume of the largest tank plus the volume of a 25-year, 24-hour rainfall event for the county is acceptable.
  8. To fulfill financial security requirements under Statewide Rule 78, a Closure Cost Estimate must be submitted with the R-9 application. Note that ITEM 4: FINANCIAL ASSURANCE on the "Instructions for the Form R-9" is outdated. Once the Closure Cost Estimate is approved by Technical Permitting, financial security in the form of a bond (Form CF-1) or letter of credit (Form CF-2) will be requested. More information can be found on the “Commercial Facilities” page.
  9. To fulfill the public notice requirements:
    • If the applicant does not own the surface property, a copy of the application must be mailed or delivered to the surface owner.
    • A copy of the application must be mailed or delivered to the county clerk of the county where the reclamation plant is to be located, and to the city clerk or other appropriate city official (if the reclamation plant is located within the corporate limits of the city), on or before the date the application is filed with the commission.
    • Provide the date that the full permit application was mailed or delivered to the county clerk and, if applicable, to the city clerk.
    • Notice of the application must be published once by the applicant in a newspaper of general circulation for the county where the reclamation plant is to be located, in a form approved by the commission. Publication shall occur on or before the date the application is filed with the commission. Proof of publication must be filed with the commission. Template for published notice ( 

Depending on facility design and site characteristics, staff may require soil borings and/or groundwater monitoring wells to be installed at the facility before the facility may begin operations.

If any pits will be used with the facility, an Application for a Permit to Maintain and Use a Pit (Form H-11) for each pit, including attachments, must be submitted with the application, and the following additional requirements will be triggered:

  1. The Closure Cost Estimate must be prepared or supervised and approved by a Professional Engineer (P.E.) licensed in the state of Texas.
  2. If any waste will be held above grade, the pit diagrams must be sealed by a P.E. licensed in the state of Texas.
  3. Notify each adjacent landowner of the permit application. The complete application, including all attachments, must be delivered to the adjacent landowner as part of the notification process. Provide a copy of the notification letter that was sent to each adjacent landowner as part of the application.
  4. Instead of the published notice requirements described above, notice of the application must be published twice by the applicant in a newspaper of general circulation for the county where the reclamation plant is to be located, in a form approved by the commission. First publication must be no earlier than the date the application is filed and no later than the 30th day after the date the application is filed with the RRC. Proof of publication must be filed with the commission.

Mail the original application to:
Railroad Commission of Texas 
Technical Permitting 
P.O. Box 12967 
Austin, Texas 78711-2967

File one copy of the application with the appropriate District Office.