The essay discusses the impact of the Oil and Gas exploration, production and distribution on the environment. In particular, the essay discusses the impact of activities undertaken by oil and gas industries on the water pollution. The essay has also discussed the measure that can be taken to minimize water pollution caused by oil and gas industries. Since the discovery of crude oil, it has huge impact on the civilization and with the advent of industrial revolution and until today is the single most sought after natural resource (Nissen et al. 2014). Oil has become the driving force for the development of economy for every country. Many of the economy are running on the revenues earned from petroleum and it has been the centre stage for many modern day wars. Although, most of the countries depend on the oil and gas for its energy needs and actively produce or take part in petroleum trade activities, to boost their economy; these practices have cause serious damage to the environment either intentionally or unknowingly. One of the major problems linked with this dependency on oil is the extremely destructive effects that extraction, production and distribution have on the environment (Merrill and Schizer 2013).
Environment pollution by oil and gas industries’ activities has caused significant damage to the environment by oil waste dumping into the ground, pollution during the production process, oil spills, gas flaring, etc. It has affected the surrounding wildlife and natural habitat for many species. The source of pollution in the oil and gas industry is entangled in all the stages of exploration, extraction process, storage and transportation of petroleum oil. It may be due to release of pollutants correlated with the oil and gas industry into the environment. The major causes of oil spills are flow lines and pipeline leakages. Blowouts from wellheads due to inadequate maintenance and oil spills from flow stations also contribute to marine pollution (Chu and Majumdar 2012).
Oil spills releases hazardous hydrocarbons into the environment. These spills affect vast stretches of ocean beds adversely affecting the marine life. Mangrove forests are particularly affected by the oil spills as they have a tendency to absorb oil and then rerelease it every rainy season, thereby magnifying the impact of pollution. In the due process, the efficiency of mangrove trees in photosynthesis decreases the trees subsequently withers and dies. Mangroves are important for ecosystem in many as they acts as buffer between land and sea and helps in protecting soil erosion in coastal areas; in addition mangroves also acts as a breeding ground for many species. Another source of water pollution by oil and gas exploration is the discharge of effluents into the water bodies (Jackson 2014).
In the process of exploration, activities like cuttings and drilling, mud and fluids are used for stimulating production. Chemicals are also used in seismic activities that are harmful for the environment. The key constituents of drill cuttings when discarded onto the ground restrict native plant growth and in the water bodies, these materials disperses, sinks, and may kill plants and animals living at the bottom. The dumping of wastes in the sea from oil facilities is directly linked with the fish stocks (Vidic et al. 2013).
Exploratory drilling results in gas venting and flaring which causes natural hazards and risks in the form of well blowouts, localized land subsidence and land and water contamination. Exploratory drilling and production method requires drilling and cutting activities that releases contaminated water and toxic spillages into the marine ecosystem. It causes surface water pollution in the form of creating a layer above the surface of water, this phenomenon is known as interphase. Drilling activities by oil and gas industry disrupts ground water systems and flows in the form of hydraulic fracturing (Rahm et al. 2013). These activities results in climate change in the form of extreme weather conditions, rise in sea level, temperature rise and reduced water availability. In the refining of crude oil, huge quantity of water is used that makes the water unsuitable for consumption or agricultural uses and is discharged in the water bodies that further pollutes the water resources. Pollution of underground water caused by oil and gas explorations is serious threat. Oil spills, effluent discharges seeps into the soil and contaminates the underground water (Olmstead et al. 2013).
Oil and gas resources procures a lot of revenues for the government, therefore, the environmental concerns are often being violated by the companies. The impact of ecological imbalance and the phenomenon of global warming have forced the governments and the companies to adopt a sustainable development path as the problem is not for only for a particular country or geographical region but is a matter of concern for the whole world. The activities of Oil and Gas industry have to adopt sustainable development both socially and environmentally (Bamberger and Oswald 2012).
Oil and gas industry requires vast quantities of water in the refining stage of petroleum and thereby contaminates water in the form of effluents, wash water and cooling water discharges (Davies et al. 2014). Contamination of water due to water effluents that are rich in inorganic salts renders the water unsuitable for livestock usages. This situation can be avoided if the oil company they install water treatment facility near the petroleum refining centre and discharge the water into the water bodies such as rivers or ocean after proper treatment. In addition, the treated water can be reused by the oil and gas industry to minimize water wastages and subsequent pollution of water (Rozell and Reaven 2012).
The effluents produces in the process of refining contains inorganic salts that non-biodegradable and hazardous for the aquatic ecosystem therefore it is necessary for the refining companies to treat these effluents with neutralization agents before discharging into the water bodies. The process of aeration, flocculation, oil separation, carbon absorption, reverse osmosis, bio treating, etc, must be employed for treating wastewaters before discharging it into the water bodies. Wastewaters discharged from the refining facilities are of high temperature than that of the receiving water bodies this causes thermal pollution (Warner et al. 2013).
Discharge of liquid effluents into the water bodies must conform to the standards determined by laws and regulations of each country. Solid wastes that have a tendency to seep due to rains must be kept in closed and isolated containers to prevent contamination of ground water and surface water bodies by the drainage process (deMelo 2014).
Avoid oil spills through better pipeline management, introduction of reinjection techniques and halting methane flaring. Investment should be made on Research and development activities to find better and sustainable sources of energy. Government must act to decrease dependency on petroleum and provide incentives to encourage the use of renewable and greener sources of energy, focus on achieving fuel efficiency and fuel conservation (Merrill and Schizer 2013).
Specific measures can be to reduce the impact on environment from oil and gas production. In order to identify and implement mitigation measures, it is important to analyze potential negative impact on the environment. Then project and location of the project must be must be evaluated from all aspects i.e. financial, social, environmental to determine whether the project can be executed following the sustainability principle and minimizing the damage of the environment (Vengosh et al. 2014).
Many of the water pollution issues can be avoided by adopting appropriate mitigation measures. Most of the water related issues in oil and gas industry is associated with project footprint as soil erosion, changes in water runoff patterns, contamination of underground water, harm of marine biodiversity, oil spills, etc. Many of these issues can be avoided if the companies act responsibly and develop project following the principles of sustainability at the designing stage of the project and predetermining the measures to avoid environmental damage (Murray 2013). The oil and gas companies need to adopt proactive approach in their business instead of reactive approach, because the impacts of mismanagement of the operations or activities usually have major impact on the environment (Olmstead et al. 2013).
Various steps that an oil and gas company can adopt to minimize the damage of water bodies may include identifying and avoiding unstable slopes to protect ground water conditions, seismic activity and geologic structure. Proper research of local hydrogeology in order to identify areas of ground water discharge and recharge and the relationships between surface water bodies and ground water quality (Ferrar et al. 2013). It is important not to build conduit between two water bodies; discharge of untreated effluents to the local water bodies, rivers, wetlands must be avoided as these water bodies; use of special construction techniques to avoid water runoffs and using existing drainage systems in sensitive areas such as erodible soils and steep slopes. It is important to minimize the impact on environment at all the stages of oil exploration to retailing to be able to develop sustainably (Carson et al. 2013).
The oil and gas companies are regulated by various laws to protect the environment from unchecked exploration, production and distribution activities of petroleum industries. However, due to the negligence either on the part of government or the oil companies to comply with these laws has caused severe damage to the environment. For instance, the petroleum exploration in Nigeria led to large-scale violations of environment laws and the government did nothing to address the issue rather it acted as a partner of oil companies, also the oil spill by BP had hugely impacted the marine ecosystem. Therefore, to address these issues it is important to build a centralized, global and autonomous body look into the affairs of oil and gas companies and defining guidelines for the petroleum industries. It is important to demark ecologically sensitive areas and restrict the activities of oil and gas companies on those areas.
In addition, it is important to search for greener sources of energy and reduce the dependency on petroleum. The government needs to invest heavily on the research and development of finding alternative sources of energy and build infrastructure to reduce the usage of oil and gas. The oil companies also have the responsibility to restore the environment damaged by their activities and take step to reduce its footprints on the environment. Usage of efficient technology and equipments, proper maintenance of pipelines, waste disposable mechanisms has to be adopted and followed rigorously.
With the use of technology that has been made available to in the recent years, oil and gas companies can minimize pollution and can contribute in making a cleaner environment. Some of these technologies are Green Completions that helps in capturing the leaked natural gas from the well and makes available for use; Plunger Lift System is used to remove the blockages from the oil wells formed from liquid accumulation and increases the efficiency, some of the other technologies include pipeline maintenance and repair systems, TEG dehydrator emission control, desiccant dehydrators, dry seal systems, automated leak monitoring and repair mechanisms etc. With the inclusion of these technologies oil and gas pollution can be contained and it also saves precious natural resources (Olmstead et al. 2013).
It can be concluded from the above discussion, that externalities of oil and gas exploration and production have resulted in profound adverse effect on the environment. The level of pollution caused by oil and gas companies has increased considerably and has diluted the quality of air, water, soil, etc. Oil and gas industry has significantly contributed in water pollution; the water bodies including fresh water sources to oceans have been polluted by the activities of oil and gas companies. The fresh water sources such as rivers, lakes or underground water reserves near the exploration, production or distribution centers have a poor quality of water. In addition, the offshore activities of oil and gas companies in the deep sea have polluted the ocean water and have posed huge risks for the fragile marine ecosystem. Therefore, it is important for the oil companies to understand the harmful effects of pollution caused by their activities and develop business models on the principles of environmental sustainability using modern techniques and equipments to minimize the damage on the environment.
Bamberger, M. and Oswald, R.E., 2012. Impacts of gas drilling on human and animal health. New solutions: a journal of environmental and occupational health policy, 22(1), pp.51-77.
Carson, R., Conaway, M.B., Hanemann, W.M., Krosnick, J.A., Mitchell, R.C. and Presser, S., 2013. Valuing oil spill prevention: a case study of California’s central coast (Vol. 5). Springer Science & Business Media.
Chu, S. and Majumdar, A., 2012. Opportunities and challenges for a sustainable energy future. nature, 488(7411), pp.294-303.
Davies, R.J., Almond, S., Ward, R.S., Jackson, R.B., Adams, C., Worrall, F., Herringshaw, L.G., Gluyas, J.G. and Whitehead, M.A., 2014. Oil and gas wells and their integrity: Implications for shale and unconventional resource exploitation. Marine and Petroleum Geology, 56, pp.239-254.
de Melo-Mart?n, I., Hays, J. and Finkel, M.L., 2014. The role of ethics in shale gas policies. Science of the Total Environment, 470, pp.1114-1119.
Ferrar, K.J., Michanowicz, D.R., Christen, C.L., Mulcahy, N., Malone, S.L. and Sharma, R.K., 2013. Assessment of effluent contaminants from three facilities discharging Marcellus Shale wastewater to surface waters in Pennsylvania. Environmental science & technology, 47(7), pp.3472-3481.
Jackson, R.B., 2014. The integrity of oil and gas wells. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 111(30), pp.10902-10903.
Jenner, S. and Lamadrid, A.J., 2013. Shale gas vs. coal: Policy implications from environmental impact comparisons of shale gas, conventional gas, and coal on air, water, and land in the United States. Energy Policy, 53, pp.442-453.
Merrill, T.W. and Schizer, D.M., 2013. The shale oil and gas revolution, hydraulic fracturing, and water contamination: a regulatory strategy. Columbia Law and Economics Working Paper, (440).
Murray, K.E., 2013. State-scale perspective on water use and production associated with oil and gas operations, Oklahoma, US. Environmental science & technology, 47(9), pp.4918-4925.
Nissen-Lie, T.R., Brude, O.W., Aspholm, O.O., Taylor, P.M. and Davidson, D., 2014, May. DEVELOPING A GUIDELINE FOR OIL SPILL RISK ASSESSMENT AND RESPONSE PLANNING FOR OFFSHORE INSTALLATIONS. In International Oil Spill Conference Proceedings (Vol. 2014, No. 1, pp. 314-327). American Petroleum Institute.
Olmstead, S.M., Muehlenbachs, L.A., Shih, J.S., Chu, Z. and Krupnick, A.J., 2013. Shale gas development impacts on surface water quality in Pennsylvania. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 110(13), pp.4962-4967.
Rahm, B.G., Bates, J.T., Bertoia, L.R., Galford, A.E., Yoxtheimer, D.A. and Riha, S.J., 2013. Wastewater management and Marcellus Shale gas development: trends, drivers, and planning implications. Journal of environmental management, 120, pp.105-113.
Rozell, D.J. and Reaven, S.J., 2012. Water pollution risk associated with natural gas extraction from the Marcellus Shale. Risk Analysis, 32(8), pp.1382-1393.
Vengosh, A., Jackson, R.B., Warner, N., Darrah, T.H. and Kondash, A., 2014. A critical review of the risks to water resources from unconventional shale gas development and hydraulic fracturing in the United States. Environmental science & technology, 48(15), pp.8334-8348.
Vidic, R.D., Brantley, S.L., Vandenbossche, J.M., Yoxtheimer, D. and Abad, J.D., 2013. Impact of shale gas development on regional water quality. Science, 340(6134), p.1235009.
Warner, N.R., Christie, C.A., Jackson, R.B. and Vengosh, A., 2013. Impacts of shale gas wastewater disposal on water quality in western Pennsylvania. Environmental science & technology, 47(20), pp.11849-11857.