Impact of Oil and Gas Exploration


Discuss the impact of Oil and Gas Exploration, Production and Distribution on Environment.

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The human civilization is in continuous search and in need of energy resources to evolve, grow and survive. Since the time, the concept of globalization occurred, the need kept increasing continuously and the ever growing human population accelerated exploring all the available options for cheap energy. This exploration is not only necessary for energy needs but also needs to be done for economic growth of the countries. The Petroleum industry has spread itself into consumer goods market by being one of the core ingredients in many products. This is what makes this industry truly global from America to Asia and from North to South Pole. Oil and Gas products serve humans as primary energy source since a long time and are required to sustain for foreseeable future. This resource has become so important that it created war conditions between certain countries and still poses the threat.

This essay discusses the Impact of the Oil and Gas Exploration on water pollution. This paper would discuss the various technologies and government regulations to combat the persistent water pollution.

Petroleum is basically a mixture of Hydrocarbons and gets created by organic material degradation under Earth’s surface. The final products are natural/petroleum gas, lubricants, petrochemicals, fuel oil, biofuel, petroleum etc. Consequently, the use increased significantly and this industry threatens to affect, all prospects of nature, air, water, soil and all living beings. Pollution being the first of its impact has been created during all stages of its production, exploration, refining and distribution as well. All these stages create more than 800 chemicals, which are released as wastewater, gas, solid wastes and aerosols (Chalmers, 2008). On the social economic and cultural front, it has brought many changes. The land use pattern for small businesses changed, like sites for fishing, hunting, agriculture etc. These industries cause immigration issues due to jobs and opportunities in the area (Slee, 2015). The income difference and other factors cause inflation as well as these factors changes the culture and local value system. The aesthetics and transportation system of the area will also be permanently harmed. The combustion process, flaring venting, purging gases, airborne particulars and fugitive gases from loading operations created atmospheric issues. It causes global warming, ozone depletion and diseases in all the living beings. The installation, contamination by spilling and leakage causes soil erosion, depleting forests and living species. Plants and animals are directly affected by such changes. The natural habitat, breading area and finally removal of vegetation, makes difficult to survive and force to immigrate. It threatens ecological balance by inflicting biodiversity losses to earth.

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Nowadays, along with the crude oil and gas within the sediments, hydrocarbons are also being exploited for petroleum products (Pichtel, 2016). During exploration, identification of possible reservoirs is done through drilling or seismic techniques. It identifies the statistics regarding the possible amounts of oil and gas present in the reservoir and assesses the quality of it. This process can be carried out in terrestrial and in marine places as well. As the reservoir is identified, the fuel is extracted by drilling wells, using technologies. The drill is kept cool by using various lubricants.

During this whole process the excess gases are vented off in the air and acids are injected to prevent clogging at these sites (Voulvoulis, 2015). The hydrocarbons are the separated into gas and liquids. Construction of these sites cause social and environmental changes. Once the extraction is done, the output is refined to make it saleable. It includes physical separation and chemical treatments. Various kinds of products are made based on the composition. Refineries have distillation, cracking and crude receiving facilities. Then, finally transportation is done to make the products reach the people. This is done using pipelines, boats, vessels and tankers.

There are many incidents in Fuel production industry. On the Mediterranean coast of Lebanon, one of the largest spills of all times occurred at Jiyal power station in 2006. UK, Norway, Italy and the Netherlands are the countries in Europe where most of the offshore oil and gas installations are lying. There are approximately 1000 of these installations in European Union and approximately half of this figure is covered by UK. There have already been an incident in1980s on the Norway and UK sites, which killed hundreds of workers.

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The fauna diversity and dominance reduces due to contamination by OPFs and the settlement of suspended fine cutting. It affects area ranging from 3 to 6 km from the drilling site. Discharge of oil based drilling fluids, and chemical, harms the quality of water as well. During the pipeline placement, especially where the pipelines are trenched and buried can impact the seabed temporarily (Obayori, 2015). Vessel that deploy pipeline also harms the seabed. In soft sediment areas, the reestablishment happens within 1-2 years but in harder substitute region, it may take up to 10 years for restoration. The platform lights and fares in this industry attract birds and poses mortal danger to them. The oil spills have temporary as well as long term effects. The oil trapped in stream beds slowly poison the area creating the long term effect. Freshwater bodies are harmed by oil spill and also poses threat to human health. These places are used as nesting ground, food stock, and drinkable water source. This becomes deadly, as these species are the top of food chain. Oil spill in ocean get collected on the banks, disturbing the soil as well as the aesthetic view.

To manage and keep harmful effects in control, policies and regulations are needed. The international regulations are implemented by national government. Subordinate regulations and guidelines are provided to support the main cause. Quantitative control, performance assessment, negotiated agreement, self-regulation and goal setting would also help. The Environmental Impact Assessment majorly influences the consent for important activities. There are various factors that are necessary for effective application of these legislations. Firstly, appropriate International and Nation Laws with regulations and guidelines are necessary. Set of legislations with clean and crisp responsibilities and liabilities will follow. The decision on the activities should be coherent (Chimowitz, 2015). Proper standards for operations and protocols with suitable monitors would be apt. Funds, genuine authorities, timely sanction and political will for the enforcements in addition to reporting of goal achievement would complete the process of application. The global organizations are responsible to ensure that the international conventions and treaties are followed by all the nations. 1992 UNCED ‘Earth Summit’ enforced all the above mentioned rules. The Montreal Protocol of Vienna Convention was formed to reduce the ozone-depleting substances. The Basel Convention was to control hazardous wastes transformative movement. To keep peace with the marine environment, there are various conventions and agreements, like Convention on migratory species, Biodiversity convention etc. The regional regulatory framework is formed by ‘OSPAR’, Barcelona and Middle East ‘Gulf Region’. European Union implements its environmental principles through its member’s national legislations (Venables, 2010). They have made a set of principles like ‘polluters pay’, rectification-at-source and integration of environment etc. European Union also exercises precautionary principle by establishing ‘Environmental Quality Objectives’. It accepts sustainable development by adopting ‘Integrated Pollution Control’.

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There are many NGOs that are working towards limiting these environmental damages. One such organization is WWF, which is a member of delegation for the Arctic Council Oil Spill Task Force, where it urges for tighter policies and standards for spillage in Arctic (Jevnaker, 2015). Using tools called ‘RACER’ it identifies areas that are sensitive for wildlife and people and re needed to be protected from Oil and Petroleum Industry.

Learning from the 2010 Gulf of Mexico Spill accident, European Union sought after ‘Communication of the safety of offshore oil and gas activities’ under ENPI framework.EU also funds the ‘Sustainable Water management and Depollution of the Mediterranean, which supports depollution of Mediterranean by enforcing sustainable value management policies. Under a program called ‘Horizon 2020 Initiative’, it strives to depollute the Mediterranean by the year 2020 by controlling the source of pollution, which contributes 80% to the total pollution. In 2011, EU also proposed ‘offshore protocol’, which is supposed to prevent offshore exploration and exploitation activities to de-pollute Mediterranean (Kneese, 2015). It would also comply the operator for environmental cleanup from 22km to 370 km.

New technologies have served in limiting the number and sizes of ‘footprints’. Footprints are the areas disturbed by exploring and drilling. Now we need to dig only few well to find oil reserves, by using, 3D/4D seismic technology, global positioning system, remote sensing device and satellites. The new drilling devices do horizontal and directional drilling, which helps to produce oil from a larger area, using a single well (Corntassel, 2008). Durable forged alloy and polycrystalline diamond have improved productivity. This results into worker safety and habitat protection as well. Gas, Thermal and chemical injection techniques can retrieve up to 50% of the oil in place, preventing spilling. These techniques have reduced the emission of methane. These techniques are enhance by 4D time lapsing imaging. Through ’Rigs to Reef’ program, rigs are toppled offshore, which do not disturb the natural marine habitat. Resources under the Arctic region, cities and airports can be secured without affecting surface by the technologies. Ice pads, roads, multilateral completions and injection of drilling waste reduces cost and decreased harmful impact.

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The international fuel industries have various business charters (for example International chamber of commerce and E&P Forum) and guidelines through which they contribute to the environment. MARPOL, UN Law of sea and Framework convention on climate change are other international environmental conventions (Fragouli, 2015). There are various industry guidelines on environment, which are, Environmental  principle(E&P forum, EUROPIA), Management Systems(UNEP, API), Chemical usage(API), Water management(E&P Forum), Drilling muds(E & P Forum), oil spill(UNEP,IPIECA), Decommissioning ( E&P forum). The technical guidelines include, seismic operations (IAGC), Chemical usage (OLF), Atmospheric emissions (OLF, E&P forum), produced water (E&P Forum) and oil spills (IMO, IPIECA).

The common legislation laws also apply to this industry. Some of them are petroleum law, marine pollution, integrated pollution control, permitted chemicals etc. A basic infrastructure is also needed to implement these regulations, for example Regulations, environmental survey, approvals, emergency response, logistics, external services, technical services, training institutes etc. It is recommended that the governments of different nations should focus to attain this basic infrastructure.

The exploration, production, refining and distribution processes have been a challenge for oil industry in environmental context. It has become an issue not just on environmental part, but it has also become a demand on moral and ethical fronts. It not only affects the Earth but also affects the business of the industry as green energy sources are coming into light.  Though the environmental costs are high, but economical and other benefits also influence the decision of fuel exploration and distribution. Cooperation and management between, industry, government and common man is necessary to control the situation as environment is suffering, and if timely steps are not taken, civilization might pay for it later (Canuto, 2010). It is recommended that the internal and national treaties must be supported through various means, described in this essay, to ensure similar laws all over the world and prevent further damage. As well as NGOs must be supported for these causes to spread the idea and generate awareness among common people. Every process of the industry harms the environment in one or the other way, but new technologies have enabled us to overcome each of them. But some damages are irreversible, and to control them, we need to reduce the consumption of the fuel industry to as low as possible, in order to save the resources and environment.

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