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The Challenge of Sustainability in the Oil and Gas Industry


Discuss about the Prevention Control and Countermeasure Program.

More than a hundred years of errors and successes in the oil industry have shown that for the development of a country's natural resources to be sustainable and effective for that society, it must go far beyond the macroeconomic figures that describe industrial activity.  Therefore, we need to put in place measures that reduce any risk of accidents in the oil and gas industry.

Oil, which has fed the last hundred years of development on this planet, is still perceived today with pernicious duplicity: on the one hand, as a source of unparalleled wealth creation, and, on the other, as a factor of distortion Economic and social unpredictability (A century of ecosystem science, 2002). Successfully surviving this dichotomy is undoubtedly the biggest challenge we face in pursuing the sustainability of oil as an industry.

Gone are the days when our biggest concern was the subsurface hazards. Although they remain so, today they are exceeded in importance by those associated with the social and environmental environment in which we must operate in a sustainable equilibrium. However, after accidents like the Exxon Valdez in 1989 and the 2010 Deep water horizon, there needs to be much more emphasis on ethics in leaderships of the oil and gas industry as a means of reducing any risks associated with this industry.

Pollution is any substance or form of energy that can cause any damage or imbalance (irreversible or not) in an ecosystem, in the physical environment or in a living being. It is always a negative alteration of the natural state of the environment, and therefore, is generated as a consequence of human activity.

The relation of Ethics to the accidents and to the environment is a fundamental aspect. It should be noted that these two have a lot of relationship, because having no ethics do not have the values ??and education to raise awareness of the great problem this causes and likewise usually raising pollution. The objective of this topic is that people reflect on their actions and that it is also transmitted to more people. Having ethics forces the leadership of the oil and gas company to adhere to certain regulations that may prevent these accidents. For example, the deep water horizon accident was as a result of BP using a design that was less costly and ignoring safer alternatives (Chowdhury, n.d.). Although BP did not break any law by using this design, the consequences were quite severe.

Traditionally the topic of ethics has not been linked to the aspects relating to nature and the environment. The old questions of the relation between being and duty, cause and purpose, nature and value, which are the domain of ethics, have been confined to an area where the subject of the environment has been excluded. And only very recent decades, this subject has passed to have a remarkable ethical preoccupation.It is well said that because of the industrial revolution, the blow was strong at the beginning of the pollution, because with this produced large CO2 production, as well as some other factors discussed later. Exxon, may also have averted the Exxon Valdez scandal, in which a lot of oil was spilled in the sea causing tremendous harm to the environment. This is because it was later discovered that the captain of the ship was having high levels of alcohol in his blood and was allowed to steer the ship. This is a good example of lack of ethics.

The Relationship Between Ethics and the Environment

Work accidents occur by two groups of immediate causes: unsafe conditions such as lack of, structures or facilities that are not suitable for the type of work being performed, which do not Personal protective equipment is supplied to workers, etc., that is, are the conditions of Insecurity of facilities, machinery and workplaces (Ferrell, Fraedrich and Ferrell, n.d.). The second group of these causes are the unsafe acts that workers commit when they violate a safety rule such as not using the protective equipment provided to them, using inappropriate tools, making jokes at workplaces, blocking devices Safety, carry out operations without prior training or without authorization, etc.

Unsafe acts, in turn, are originated because workers are not trained in safety and by personal factors that influence their behavior, such as: The machismo that makes some workers feel that their masculine bravery characteristics will be diminished if They use their protective equipment, and when this machismo is atavistic, the individual thinks that if his father or grandfather behaved in a similar way, they can hardly change their attitude. Luck is not difficult to find who believes that by using amulets can get good fortune and avoid accidents. Excessive trust, irresponsibility, and noncompliance with established norms and working procedures are also the personal factors that most commonly cause workers to engage in unsafe acts. Therefore when ethics are observed in the gas and oil industry there will be less accidents occurring.

The decision of the national government to give way to the exploration and development of unconventional hydrocarbon deposits  and to the practice associated with this activity - fracking or hydraulic fracturing - has given rise to a debate of the highest interest.

Although it is a technology the industry has been using for at least eighty years, the intensity of use of fracturing in this new era of  development has highlighted the risks involved (Lazarus, 2016).  Hydrocarbons, like oil and gas, are trapped in tiny pores that form the grains or particles of sedimentary rocks. Traditionally, these pores are intercommunicated and therefore allow the fluids to move from those rocks to the wells that are drilled for exploitation. This is what is now called "conventional deposits".

However, due to their genesis, some hydrocarbons are trapped in rocks that do not have the aforementioned interconnection between their pores, that is, they are of very low or almost no permeability and prevent the passage of oil or gas into the perforated wells. These are the non-conventional deposits , and their exploitation is projected as a great option to meet the growing demand for hydrocarbons in the world (Olah, Goeppert and Prakash, 2009).This procedure includes the injection, together with the water, of natural or synthetic sand, to serve as a support and prevent the closure of the small wedge-like fractures to maintain the stability of the mixture during the operation.

In many countries, it is required to disclose the list of additives used in fracking operations as a means of ensuring proper control of them (although in the United States this disclosure is not mandatory due to the patent protection system).

Unsafe Conditions and Acts in the Oil and Gas Industry

The United States has been the standard bearer in the use of this technique, to the point that the r ABC published an article that shows that thanks to it by 2035 this country will produce more barrels of oil than Saudi Arabia and achieve energy self-sufficiency, which Represents a breakthrough for the US political agenda.

Everything that is described above, apparently, has no major operational complications, but involves a number of risks that, if not properly considered, can become adverse impacts on the environment and communities. These risks are:

  • The involuntary emission of hydrocarbons into the environment (atmosphere and fresh aquifers).
  • Contamination of fresh water with waste water in fracturing.
  • The affectation of surface sources due to the capture for use in projects of this type, and the seismicity induced.

All of these risks are real and serious, but most are not alien to conventional oil practice and can be handled appropriately to avoid undesirable consequences.

However, it must be clarified that the advance in fracking technology allows to predict with great accuracy the size of the fractures to be produced which, accompanied by an adequate knowledge of the regional geology and the appropriate practices for the completion of wells, makes Possible to avoid the materialization of this risk.

Another issue of great concern is the management of the surface technique and the eventual reinjection of waters that are used in fracturing and extracted simultaneously with the hydrocarbons. In many cases, these fluids are injected into other rocky strata in the subsoil, and by increasing their pressure they can become interconnected with surface aquifer, which causes freshwater contamination. There are independent studies, With a scientific basis, on the possible environmental, social and public health impacts of hydraulic fracturing activities that demonstrate an acceptable and manageable risk.- Independent analysis of the surface and ground water situation at the sites.A number of foreign activities such as hot work, confined space entry, work at height and environmental risk factors such as the presence of H2S hydrogen sulfide.

The oil and gas companies such as Exxon and BP face the following risks.Other issues such as air pollution limits for power plants have met with strong resistance from the UK and from large companies in the sector due to possible legal actions and fines that could be Generated under the EU Emissions Directive.

On the other hand, BP has been a market leader in its brand as an oil company, according to many experts. In 2000, the firm successfully changed its acronym, "British Petroleum" to "Beyond Petroleum". It was a brilliant tactic. "BP does an excellent job creating an accessible and friendly brand in the oil business." In 2007, a survey by consulting firm Landor & Associates showed that British consumers rated BP as the ninth of 20 "green" companies. However, at the international level, the main risks that have been identified at the level of national oil companies are: Climate change and environmental problems,Political risks and.Technological risks physical security risks

order to maintain their leadership position in the markets, companies from all industrial sectors are constantly faced with the challenge of growth, a challenge they can achieve with adequate strategies to increase their revenues and profits, guarantee the financial returns demanded by shareholders and, Above all, be competitive. All this requires sound leadership. However as much as the company and the shareholders want huge dividends and returns, ethics must be emphasized by the leadership to avert accidents that have resulted to humongous lawsuits as well as damage to the environment and deaths. Companies may use consultancy firms because they need an expert knowledge of someone external that can guide them efficiently to face a certain situation.

Fracking and the Risks Involved

The main issues that are in the minds of oil and gas company  leaders are: how to deal with disruption caused by major accidents and how to prevent them, how to be more competitive, how to define more efficient operating models and how to prepare the workforce from the future. All these issues converge in the agenda of efficiency and business growth. They also incorporate ethics while leading these companies.

Previous accidents in the oil and gas industry such as Exxon Valdez and BP’s deep water horizon have led to a conclusion that lack of ethics resulted to this accidents which may have been averted.It is important to clarify that in parallel with the execution of a rapid and accurate response, it would have to be working in the detection and punishment of other agents that have contributed to the beginning of this spill and the delay in dealing with it: corruption of authorities and corporations, incompetence, Negligence, immaterial financial interests and, above all, our addictive dependence, as a contemporary society, against oil (Radpour et al., n.d.).

At this point the leader may often be criticized as "bureaucratic" when in fact it is basic to an adequate analysis. In fact, someone from industrial security is asked to do it alone or hire a knowledgeable person to do it to avoid "bureaucracy." Nothing more wrong (Radpour et al., n.d.). The group should be made up of several people from different disciplines related to the work to be done, including workers; The purpose of this is to assure several points of view and the experiences of those who already know the work and the hazards involved.

This is the first task of the analysis group: You should list each activity to be done taking into account the people involved and other tasks that are carried out in the area of ??influence.

At this point, the hazards present in each activity are identified and listed.

Once hazards are identified, it is time to determine the possible consequences for people, property and the environment.

To evaluate the consequences, it is customary to use a numerical scale from 1 to 4 where: 1 = minor 2 = moderate 3 = major 4 = disastrous

Identifying the hazards and possible consequences, we proceed with the identification of the existing controls to avoid the occurrence of those consequences (Lazarus, 2016). Following the excavation, the customary controls are geotechnical studies, the structural control of the excavation and the periodic review of the The important thing is that these controls exist in the organization and that they are actually practiced.

Determination of the risk (Probability of occurrence) With the information collected up to this point, the risk is determined. That is, the probability of the accident or loss occurring. The risk is rated as low, medium or high (V??a?squez Cordano, 2012).

On the other hand, the lack of formal security policies and programs, the lack of adequate maintenance, and the idea that production has to be carried out without considering the state of insecurity that facilities and machinery may have, unsafe conditions.

A starting point for starting to develop security in those companies that do not yet have established programs will be:

  1. Identify unsafe conditions and acts.
  2. Evaluate the potential danger that they enclose.
  3. According to the magnitude evaluated of the risks, to dictate the corresponding preventive measures and to watch that they are fulfilled.

There is no doubt that these activities will achieve good  results in reducing the risk.


As a result of several centuries of drilling and fracking activities in the world and subsequently, due to the basic chemical, petrochemical and oil refining industries, there have been very large but very difficult to quantify quantities of hazardous waste (The Environmental Protection Agency's spill prevention control and countermeasure program, 2008). In addition to this, the intense activity of other industries, together with accidents during storage, transport or transfer of substances (leaks, spills, fires) and the clandestine and uncontrolled disposal of waste, contribute greatly to pollution. These are some of the negative effects that the oil and gas industry brings to the community. Main causes of pollution are; Disposal of domestic and industrial solid waste, discharge of domestic and industrial drains, disposal of used oils and Oil spills.

Safety in the oil industry depends mainly on the analysis and evaluation of the risks in the matter of gas as oil, focused on the materials used, that is why it is necessary to maintain prevention before the integrity of certain subjects to wear and corrosion which Are precursors to accidents but especially the lives of people working in this sector.

 To achieve this process must be a good comprehensive management of assets, maintaining as such a full security in the industrialization of the matter, there are several processes; Verification, mechanical integrity of the facilities and inspections and permanent maintenance thereof.

In order to avoid accidents within the oil industry, the companies have  to implement contributing technical tools to increase the profits of the company and thus significantly reduce exposure to risk, which is why different companies have committed to health and safety with both Employees as well as contractors providing greater security in the consumption and production of these products, an example would be  (PEMEX) being managed in systems of operation and reinforcement at all levels of the company, compared to Rotoplas Distributors which count equally (V??a?squez Cordano, 2012). That PEMEX excellent control in systems of operation and reinforcement managed in its main products as they are the Industrial Tanks; Standard, Reinforced to 20% and Reinforced to 40%, handling in them an extra layer depending on the need of the consumers, managed to reduce some external risk. All companies have to invest more an systems that reduce any risk in this industry but more so adhere to ethics which reduces the risks by a huge margin. There should also be Participation in the creation of legislation and regulations These elements will support implementation Of a number of safety tools that must be applied to control, monitor and follow the dangerous processes present in the well drilling phase, and the overall drilling process.


A century of ecosystem science. (2002). Washington, DC: National Academy Press.

Bahadori, A., Nwaoha, C. and Clark, M. (2014). Dictionary of oil, gas, and petrochemical processing. [Boca Raton, FL]: CRC Press.

Chowdhury, S. (n.d.). Optimization and business improvement studies in upstream oil and gas industry.

Deep water. (2011). [Washington, D.C.]: National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling.

Ferrell, O., Fraedrich, J. and Ferrell, L. (n.d.). Business ethics.

Jennings, M. (2012). Business ethics. Australia: South-Western, Cengage Learning.

Lazarus, N. (2016). A County-Level Risk Assessment of the Deep Water Horizon Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Geographical Review, 106(3), pp.360-380.

Olah, G., Goeppert, A. and Prakash, G. (2009). Beyond oil and gas. Weinheim [an der Bergstrasse, Germany]: Wiley-VCH.

Radpour, A., Jennings, K., Allen, H. and Winslow, M. (n.d.). Surface and Subsurface Application of Chemical Dispersants and Associated Ecosystem Impacts. 1st ed.

The Environmental Protection Agency's spill prevention control and countermeasure program. (2008). Washington: U.S. G.P.O.

V??a?squez Cordano, A. (2012). The regulation of oil spills and mineral pollution. [ Estados Unidos]: Lambert Academic Publishing.

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