Oil and Gas Exploration/Production/Distribution on the Environment


Discuss the major impacts of the oil and gas industries.

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The global economy significantly depends on the oil and natural gas industry and its demand is increasing rapidly. The petroleum industry serves as the feedstock for the several consumer goods.  On the other hand, Aydın (2012) stated that the oil industry grasps a major potential of hazards for the environmental element like air, water and soil. As a consequence, pollution is the most common outcome of these activities of oil and gas industry. Pollution is completely allied with the all phases of oil and gas production. The waste waters, gas emissions, aerosols and the solid waste are generated from the exploratory activities to refining.  The oil and gas exploration, production and the distribution are the main responsible for the most pollution. Other environmental impact includes escalation of the greenhouse effect, acid rain, ground water contamination and poorer water quality. As stated by Bahgat (2012), the fuel industry might also donate to the biodiversity loss along with that to the devastation of the ecosystems. The major polluters which absorb large amounts of energy sources are the oil refineries. This industry produces large quantities of the wastage affects the water, air and soil resources. Releasing of hazardous gases into the atmosphere from the thermal plant and generating solid wastes are very hard to treat and dispose of.  However Meixsell (2010) added that despite of the threats, the oil and gas industry plays a positive role in the society for creating the employment chances and increases the volume of the tax revenues and royalties to the government. The countries having such industry help the government to earn more foreign exchange and make to stable the economic position of the nation.

Despite the positive impact, there are numerous dreadful effects of this industry in the society. The essay is also discussing the measures which can be taken to minimize those negative impacts. This essay is going to cultivate the potential impacts of oil and gas production, exploration and the distribution on the specific part of the environment such as air, water and soil pollution. The approach of the essay has also been conformed to the sustainability in relation to the economic, social and environmental issues. The establishment of monitoring the scheme and enforcement program has been discussed in the present study for establishing the new sustainable eco friendly environment.

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Oil and gas industries have a significant role over the world’s economy. However, it still requires more improvement in case of environmental sustainability. Environmental damage can comprise with the water resources and contamination of the soil along with the air. According to the opinion of Muhindo et al. (2014), to enhance the world’s economy, the primary potential way out to this emergency is to develop more natural safe resources. The report on environmental assessment programme published the main potential environmental impacts of the oil and gas industry, which can be summarized as follows:

The presence of solid, liquid or gaseous contaminants in certain degree can change the quality of the water which becomes harmful for the living and non-living things (Mason, 2010). The additional substances or heat are harmful to the living things for using the essential element of the environment.  It has been assessed that water contamination is mainly taking place due to the effect of sewage, wash activities and the cooling water discharges. The leakage from the storage and waste tanks can pollute the fresh water in the society.  Due to the discharge of waste materials the contamination gets rich by inorganic salts. Regarding this Mohamed and Thukair (2008) added that without appropriate treatment like saline pollution the water is distributed within the society. The main sources of the water pollution are the pipes, sewers, ditches from the specific factories and manure treatment plants.  The marine life is getting adversely affected due to the harmful effect of the oil and gas industry. Oil spillage is another foremost reason for the water contaminant. The thermal pollution due to the discharge of the waste matter with high temperature affects the recipients’ water bodies. While the drainage system of the thermal gas plants meets to the water body sources like rivers, sea and pond for discharging the waste material of the production. The prime aquatic effluents occurred during the step of oil exploration and production process. During the operation in the production and refining plants the particulate emissions into the atmosphere generated major water pollution. According to the view of Nowak (2015), the production and refining plant operation generates the Sulphur, Nitrogen oxides, Ammonia acids and the fluorine gas compounds emission which affects the water bodies badly. The impurities from the occasional release of potentially hazardous material such as the solvents and acid / alkali can affect the water bodies poorly. Soil, surface and ground water contamination is exaggerated by appropriate disposal of solid wastes from the chemical industry possess. The responsible elements to pollute the water bodies include effluent treatment sludge and particulate matter from the dust collectors (Nnadi, 2014). During the production, a large amount of Producing Water (PW) is recovered with the hydrocarbons. The water body is increasingly affected by the toxicity of oil based drilling fluids.  The high pH and salt content of drilling fluids and cutting creates a potential impact to the fresh water sources. The drainage water is the prime cause of pollution in the ground and surface water.

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The mitigation measures of the water pollution can be summarized as follows:

No waste water would be discharged without performing appropriate treatment into the rivers and the other locations where the process of infiltration may take place. As cited by Popoola et al. (2013), the water effluents may be treated by doing neutralization, carbon absorption, evaporation, oil and gas separation and the bio-treating etc, based on the amount of contaminates that has to be removed. The liquid effluent releases into the recipient water bodies must obey the standard governed by the proper law and regulations adopted in each country. Another process described by Priest et al. (2014), is the materials may leak due to the effect of the rain would be placed in the covered storage areas with having proper draining system to avoid the contamination of the rain waters. Gas emission can be controlled by the equipment like cyclones, electrostatic participators, bag filter and the scrubber or carbon absorption (Commission et al. 2007). The Fisheries Research Service (FRS) took part in a recent collaborative research study to look at PW effects in the marine life. Solid wastes must be treated appropriately depending on the nature of the waste particles. This method includes controlled landfill disposal, the chemical immobilization, incineration, burning in cement kilns and the solidification, etc. The injection process into the reservoir to enhance the oil recovery is the main form of disposal alternatives. Another process is that injection into a dedicated disposal well drilled in an appropriate subsurface geological formation. Implementation of an operating management system incorporates a social responsibility, operational reliability and the other relevant issues to protect the water bodies.  Eliminating the continuous flaring processes with proper replacement of demand flaring technology could diminish the negative impact of the water pollution.

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) selects the six criteria pollutants for determining the air quality. These involve carbon monoxide (CO), nitrogen oxides (NO/NO2), Sulphur dioxide (SO2) and ground level ozone (O3). It also includes particulate matter such as soot, dust, asbestos fibers, pesticides and the metals like lead (Pb). In the opinion of Commission et al. (2007), Petroleum-fuelled automobile, locomotives, and manufacturing practices directly produce the vast majority of CO and NO x in the atmosphere. These are the chief sources of the gaseous hydrocarbons. It is an organic compound combined with NO x, helps to create O3 in presence of the sunlight (Jacobson, 2012).

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Ozone is the prime component responsible for blocking the ultraviolet rays in the upper surface of the atmosphere. It is the key element for the urban smog that generates health problems presenting in the lower surface of the atmosphere. In the opinion of Fowler et al. (2016), the cause of the acid rain is the Sulphur dioxide which is a patent element of the crude oil when it released from the oil refineries or gasoline power plants. The gas emission from the vehicle exhaust also can affect the air defectively. Petroleum refining generates air pollution due to release of toxins into the atmosphere while transforming crude oil into the petrochemicals. Among other gasses excess amounts of carbon dioxide, nitrogen dioxide and methane entraps heat in the atmosphere and makes the greenhouse gas effect. Finally, leaded gasoline is a huge contributor of lead in the atmosphere. Nowak (2015) stated that the EPA and the World Bank are working together to give confidence for discontinuing the effect of leaded gasoline worldwide. Thus, the prime resources of the air pollution are the industrial activities of the oil and gas companies.

The mitigation measures of the air pollution can be summarized as follows:

Use dust abatement techniques could be one of the significant processes to mitigate the air pollution. To avoid air pollution, proper use of Green stream barge is essential. Use of Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) as fuel to transport diesel, oil and unleaded petrol could avoid the air pollution. Controlling to capture CO2 and the sulphur dioxide emissions would be the significant approach to minimize the air pollution. The flaring technology is also applicable for overcoming the effect of air pollution due to intensive air emission. Considering the use of low sulphur fuels would be helpful to reduce air pollution

Industrial activity like oil and gas industry has been the biggest contributor to the problem of soil pollution in the society. The mining and manufacturing process of the oil and gas industry have increasingly affected the soil. The oil and gas industry are dependent to extract the minerals from the earth that actually affects the soil of the earth.  The manufacturing hazards which stay behind in the surface of the soil for a long time, makes it unusable. The chemical utilization tremendously affects the soil in the UK region. As a consequence, soil leak into the ground after mixing with water and gradually reduces the soil fertility (Dejak, 2013). During the transportation of oils the oil can leak and mix with the soil. The fuel reduces the quality of the soil as a result it becomes flabby for the farming work. Acid rain is another harmful pollution activity as the pollutants present in the air mixes up with the water vapor and fall back to the earth as in form of rain. In the opinion of Takolpuckdee (2014), the polluted water would melt away a quantity of the important particles and nutrients of the soil. Hence, the formation of the soil may change which is unsuitable for the nature and cause of the earthquake.

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The mitigation measures of the soil pollution can be summarized as follows:

Organic methods of farming are being followed to reduce the usage of chemical laden pesticides and fertilizers. It is required to understand the oil flaring and its impact on the environment so that the current pollution issue can be minimised (Kara, 2015). Moreover, it is being encouraged that use of plants can remove the pollutants from the soil. Month based waste analysis plan would be effective one to reduce the soil contamination. Proper training to the industrial personnel can eliminate the soil waste, before mixing with the soil.


The overall approach of the study reflects the major impacts of the oil and gas industries, specifically on the environment such as water, air or solution pollution. The study evaluates the reason of pollutants due to the effect of oil and gas companies over the water bodies, air sources and soil sources. The essay also summarized the recommended controls to mitigate the impact of those issues in the sector. After analysing the research it has been emerged that the oil and gas industries would make the promise to embrace sustainability in relation to the economic, social and environmental issues.

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Aydın, L. (2012) ‘The economic impact of petroleum royalty reform on turkey’s upstream oil and gas industry’, Energy Policy, 43(22), pp. 166–172.

Bahgat, G. (2012) ‘The impact of the Arab spring on the oil and gas industry in north Africa – a preliminary assessment’, The Journal of North African Studies, 17(3), pp. 503–514.

Commission, R., Pollution, E., Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution and Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution (2007) The urban environment: Twenty-sixth report: Twenty-sixth report of the royal commission on environmental pollution (command paper). 4th edn. London: TSO (The Stationery Office).

Dejak, M. (2013) ‘The next-generation water filter for the oil and gas industry’, Journal of Petroleum Technology, 65(10), pp. 32–35.

Fowler, D., Dise, N. and Sheppard, L. (2016) ‘Committee on air pollution effects research: 40 years of UK air pollution’, Environmental Pollution, 208(120), pp. 876–878.

Jacobson, M.Z. (2012) Air pollution and global warming: History, science, and solutions. 2nd edn. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Kara, D. (2015) ‘Removal of Boron from aqueous solution by 2, 3-Dihydroxybenzaldehyde modified silica gel’, Water, Air, & Soil Pollution, 226(7), pp. 145–155

Mason, G.E. (2010) Poisoning and Acidification of the earth’s oceans (air, water and soil pollution science and.. 2nd edn. United States: Nova Science Publishers.

Meixsell, T. (2010) Collateral damage: A chronicle of lives devastated by gas and oil development and the Valient grassroots fight to effect political and legislative change over the impacts of the gas and oil industry in the United States. 3rd edn. United States: Createspace.

Mohamed, L. and Thukair, A.A. Al- (2008) ‘Environmental assessments in the oil and gas industry’, Water, Air, & Soil Pollution: Focus, 9(2), pp. 99–105.

Muhindo, A., Zhou, J. and Kapute Mzuza, M. (2014) ‘Impact of logistics Outsourcing strategy in oil and gas industry in Uganda’, International Journal of Business and Management, 9(6), pp. 44–48.

Nnadi, C. (2014) ‘Globalization and its impact on corporate entrepreneurship in Nigeria oil and gas industry’, International Journal of Economics & Management Sciences, 3(2), pp. 16–27.

Nowak, N. (2015) ‘The role of high density polyethylene (HDPE) lined ponds in treating water for the oil and gas industry’, Journal of Environmental Solutions for Oil, Gas, and Mining, 1(1), pp. 25–31.

Popoola, L.T., Grema, A.S., Taofeek, P.L. and Shehu, G.A. (2013) Corrosion detection during oil and gas production and its mitigation corrosion mechanisms, effects, detection and mitigation in the oil and gas industry. 2nd edn. United States: LAP LAMBERT Academic Publishing.

Priest, J.A., Clayton, C.R.I. and Rees, E.V.L. (2014) ‘Potential impact of gas hydrate and its dissociation on the strength of host sediment in the Krishna–Godavari basin’, Marine and Petroleum Geology, 58(26), pp. 187–198.

Takolpuckdee, P. (2014) ‘Transformation of agricultural market waste disposal to Biochar soil amendments’, Procedia Environmental Sciences, 20(15), pp. 64–70.