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Impact on Water

Describe the impact of oil and gas Exploration/ Production/ Distribution on the environment.

Introduction: The industry of oil and gas exploration, production and distribution has been able to spread its wings in almost all parts of the world. The future of this world truly depends on the oil and gas usage in order to stand erect in the path of success. As per various studies, the consumption of oil and gas has been increasing as the time has been passing. But with this advantage, oil and gas exploration, production and distribution brings with it a large number of disadvantages. And most of these disadvantages relate to the impacts on the environment.

Oil and gas exploration, production and distribution have been a cause for the degradation of the environment since the process was initiated for the first time. Many accidents, oil spills, fires etc. have been reported very often regarding the oil and gas exploration, production and distribution which put a negative impact on the environment. Though all the sectors involved in oil and gas exploration, production and distribution have been involved in order to reduce its negative effect on the environment, but a large amount of change can still be achievable if the proper effort is put on. This report focuses not only the impacts of oil and gas exploration, production and distribution on the environment, but also various steps that can be undertaken to achieve the target of reduction of negative effects on the environment.

Impact of Oil exploration, production and distribution on the water:  The process of oil and gas exploration, distribution and production harms the most vital resource of our nature that is water in a very negative manner. The water that is produced by this industry in the process of drilling and its exploration pollutes the clean water of the rivers and the sea. The fluids that are produced in this process are also highly chemical and poisonous, which as a result not only affect the quality of the natural resource, but also poses as a threat to the aquatic organisms thus disturbing aquatic biodiversity. The cooling water, spills and various leakages that happen during the exploration, production and distribution of oil and gas also leads to pollution of water. These wastes that are generated which pollute the water are not produced in all the process rather, they are produced differently in different stages of this process. In statistics:

  • Exploratory Drilling: In this operation, the fluids that are ejected during drilling and the wastes that are out of the process of cutting count as the wastages.
  • Production Operation: In this operation, the poisonous water is the most vital wastage.

Mitigation Steps

Though most of the ejected materials in this process like clay, bentonite etc. are nontoxic and some are also biodegradable, but the worst part is, the chemicals like zinc, barium etc. that are toxic affect the environment in a very drastic way. Moreover, oil based drilling fluids and oily cuttings harm the natural resource immensely.

There are mostly two types of wastage i.e. Water based mud and cuttings: These discharges affect the benthic organisms up to a distance of 30 meters from the place where it is ejected. It also affects the species diversity up to a distance of 120 meters from the place of its ejection and the Oil based mud and cuttings: These discharges affect the benthic organisms up to a distance of 700 meters from the place where it is ejected. It also affects the species diversity up to a distance of 1200 meters from the place of its ejection.

Though the effect of water based mud and cuttings can be decreased in accordance with time but the oil based mud and cuttings lead to a high amount of negative effects.

Moreover, the fluids that are ejected in these processes also have very high salt content and imbalance pH and this possesses the chances of polluting the water.

Also, the water or liquid wastes that are released because of various leakages and drainage systems put a negative impact on the surface water and also the underground water and this in result affects the living organisms who use these water.

Impact and mitigation: There are various impacts of this industry on water and thus steps have to be carried out in order to ensure a sustainable management of various things.

Below are mentioned some of the impacts with the mitigation steps that are to be carried out in order to avoid the loss of our healthy environment.

IMPACT ON WATER

MITIGATION STEPS

Waste water that gets released from the storage tanks, or the waste wash water that are released because of various processes

Waste water needs to be treated before releasing it to the water bodies if this has a chance of infiltration.

Waste water that is released from these processes containing inorganic salts

Various processes that are to be carried out before releasing this waste water are:

Neutralization

Evaporation

Aeration

Flocculation

Oil and Grease  Separation

Reverse Osmosis

Thermal pollution because of water that are released having water that have a temperature higher than normal

The liquid wastages that are released should be treated so that while getting released, they should follow the rules that are laid down by the government and law making bodies.

Oil based mud and cuttings in the waste water forms

In accordance to waste water treatment, the storage areas of the raw materials and intended wastes need to be kept in such a manner that the chance of seepage and leakage should be negligible.

Apart from this, the rain water, which is the main source of water if gets seeped into the drilling place, then appropriate steps are needed to be taken in order to clean the rain water and not allow it to get polluted because of the processes that are being undertaken in the ground.

These sustainable steps are very important in order to lessen the impact of the oil and gas exploration, production and distribution processes on water.

Regulatory frameworks and policies to avoid these impacts: The impacts that are put by the oil and gas industry has been a concern of not only the government of the place where it is being carried out, but also in international forums. Various international conventions have been held by the concerned bodies and introduce various policies and rules that have to be not only followed by the industries, but also the government is forced to checklist these frameworks so that the policies and rules are not violated. Some of the various conventions that have happened till now are Montreal Protocol of the Vienna Convention, Basel convention, Convention on Migratory species, Biodiversity convention, UN Law of the Sea, MARPOL, and Regional Sea Conventions (Barcelona, OSPAR, Kuwait etc.)

Regulatory Frameworks and Policies to Avoid These Impacts

All these conventions have taken a step towards the safety of the environment and thus have passed various laws that have made the governments to check whether all the industries that are set in a nation follow all the guidelines strictly. (Arnold, 2012) The power of cancelling the license of an industry on the basis of environmental degradation also lies in the hands of the ruling power or the Government. Examples of legislations that are made for the oil and gas industry so that they do not pollute the environment more are Petroleum laws, Planning laws, Environmental Protection Acts, Environmental impact assessment, Clean air and water Acts, Water catchment protection, Integrated Pollution control, Discharge and management of wastes, Land contamination or land disturbance, Permitted chemicals, Safety and fire regulations, Control of major hazards, Storage and usage of chemicals, Public and worker health safety, National park or protected area laws, Forest protection laws, Protection of indigenous and cultural heritage, and Fishery protection, marine navigation and safety (Komadina, et al., 2014).

But not only formulating laws are sufficient for avoiding this degradation, but also building various infrastructures and maintaining it are required for this. And some of the infrastructure that aims towards this are Policy formulation and regulation, Baseline Environmental surveys, Assessment and approvals, Inspection, monitoring, enforcement, Services -water, power, waste disposal, Emergency response, Logistics and transportation, External Supplies/services-construction, materials, engineering, consultants etc., Technical services- laboratories, and Training & standard institutions

Steps that should be taken by the industries: Apart from the effort put by the international forums, various non-governmental institutions and governmental institutions, the oil and gas industries should also undertake various steps in order to protect the environment or lessen the negative impact of the environment.

Leadership and commitment: The senior leaders should leave no stone unturned to make sure that all the important frameworks that are laid for the organization to protect the environment are carried out very strictly and also a commitment is shown towards the innovative side in order to find out various ways to lessen the negative impacts the industry puts on the environment (Barclays Bank PLC, 2015).

Policy and Strategic Objectives:  This attribute focuses that the aim of protecting the environment goes hand in hand with the aims and strategies of the industry. And the policies that are decided to be undertaken are to be shared with the employees so that they also understand the importance of these strategies and take utmost care.

Organization, resources and documentation: This sphere of the organization deals with the implementation of the ideas and strategies that are invented by the organization or industry. The industry allocates resources in order to implement all the ideas that are meant for the betterment of the environment and these allocated resources make sure of that. Moreover, a detailed documentation of all the activities towards the environment is prepared so that scrutinisation and verification of all the steps are performed properly.

Evaluation and risk management: This sphere deals with evaluations of all the process that are being carried out in the industry and checking whether a risk exists or not (Kadafa & Ayuba, 2012). And if it senses some risk, then this sphere holds the responsibility of handling the risk using the first level of help and managing the damage.

Planning: These spheres of the industry hold the responsibility of finding out various new innovative ideas that can be very helpful for the environment but should also hold some advantages for the industry. Moreover, this sphere also plans how the ideas it has generated can be implemented.

Implementation and monitoring: This sphere holds the responsibility of implementing the task or the plans that have been implemented by the planning sphere of the industry and sees that no loopholes lie in this implementation.

Audit and Review: This sphere checks whether all the strategies and plans laid out are implemented properly or not.

Conclusion: Oil and gas industry are an asset to the economy of any country. These are the industries that make various products which have become basic amities of the common public. But its exploration, production and distribution has been impacting the environment in a very negative manner.  It has assisted a lot in order to disturb the natural ecosystem of the world. Though various international forums, non-government organizations, government organizations have raised their voice against this pollution and degradation of various natural resources because of this industry and various industries have started taking care of the environment, but a lot is still pending to be done.

Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, 2016. Impact of oil and gas exploration and extraction on whales. Impact of oil and gas exploration.

American Petroleum institute, 2016. Advancements in Technology Reduce Environmental Impact. [Online]
Available at: https://www.api.org/policy-and-issues/policy-items/exploration/environmental_impact

Arnold, C., 2012. Environmental Impact Analysis. Environmental Impact Analysis.

Barclays Bank PLC, 2015. Environmental and Social Risk Briefing Oil & Gas, s.l.: Barclays .

Dabbs, W., 1996. Oil Production and Environmental Damage. Oil Production and Environmental Damage, December.

Hickman, C. & Bowman, K., 2008. oil and gas exploration and production, s.l.: Australia Pty Ltd .

Kadafa & Ayuba, A., 2012. Environmental Impacts of Oil Exploration and Exploitation in the Niger Delta of Nigeria. Global Journal of Science Frontier Research Environment & Earth Sciences , 12(03), pp. 1-11.

Komadina, S., McNally, T. & Young, S., 2014. Impact of Oil and Gas Exploration Impact of Oil and Gas Exploration, s.l.: U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

KPMG International, 2011. Impact of IFRS: Oil and Gas, s.l.: KPMG .

Patin, D. S., 2016. Environmental impact of the offshore oil and gas exploration, production and transportation. [Online]
Available at: https://www.offshore-environment.com/

TEEIC Team, 2015. Oil and Gas Exploration Impacts. Potential environmental impacts from exploration activities (including seismic surveys and exploratory drilling) are generally temporary and of relatively small magnitude..

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[Accessed 24 February 2024].

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