Impact of Petroleum Exploration, Extraction and Transportation


Impact of Petroleum Exploration, Extraction and Transportation

Petroleum is a dark oil that is made up of hydrocarbons (Edwards, 2007 p. 1299). Petroleum extraction, exploration and transport are characterized with a number of negative and positive impacts to the direct and indirect environment. Environmental concern has generated a heated debate in the twenty first century, in that people, organizations and nations are more concerned in conserving the environment more than before. Environmental issues in exploration, transport and extraction of the petroleum depending on the approach has a capability of influencing the exploration of the natural resources (Veil et al, 2004 p. 77).

Energy on planet earth is the lifeblood of the living things, an indication that energy is a useful commodity that propels the economy of the world. Surveys have shown that since the 1950s, natural gas and oil has taken a central stage in the energy production (Edwards, 2007 p. 1305). The world population has been increasing constantly, a show that the need for energy has been constantly increasing.

Taking a survey of the United States, it has been noted that petroleum production was initiated in 1859 in the petroleum exploration and production (E&P) at the Drake’s well. Petroleum E&P has many benefits, but on the other side, it has diverse environmental issues touching the on the local environment and the global environment (Veil et al, 2004 p. 92). Naming some of the environmental issues: air pollution, climate change in the world and oil spills among others. Intentional dumping of the petroleum E&P has caused dangerous fire balls that at times have cost the lives of human beings and other living organism. Intentional dumping has caused corrosion, storms, accidents and explosions; which has harmed the environmental receptors.

Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) principles and process is characterized with conservation of the environment (Energy Information Administration (EIA), 2004 p. 13). EIA works towards environmental conservation in attributes of practicability, certainty, transparency, flexibility, accountability, cost effectiveness, credibility and participation. Practicability reflects on making environmental conservation decisions that are results oriented and has time limits. Certainty has more of advanced models that lead to influential attributes of environmental conservation.

Transparency focuses on accessibility, reliability and development of open models that relates to the environmental conservation. Flexibility has more on adapting to the changing environment in issues of environmental conservation. Accountability is more of making decisions on the conservation of the environment that has positive end results. Cost effectiveness sheds light on making right budgets that reflect on the environmental conservation. Credibility focuses on environmental decisions that show professionalism and objectiveness and Participation gears towards timely access of issues dealing with environmental conservation (Energy Information Administration (EIA), 2004 p. 55).

EIA is concerned on diverse principles that are directed at conserving the environment, with screening and scoping being the major principles. Screening is concerned with defining a particular petroleum E&P project that needs the attention of the EIA and other regulatory authorities. Screening opinion is critical in defining the worthiness of the project in respect to the overall environmental conservation. It is argued that screening is done before implementing the planning phase. EIA scoping is another principle used by the EIA, it is argued that scoping opinion is made in accordance with the relevant measures in the environmental conservation. A scoping register has all the activities related with the scopes as the specification preset by the planning officer (Energy Information Administration (EIA), 2004 p. 76).

Screening and scoping are used in making viable alternatives in petroleum E&P in making environmental friendly decisions. EIA through screening and scoping ensures conservational of the environment and making sound decisions in making follow-ups on the petroleum E&P projects. Environment is subject to be protected by the nations, organizations and the individuals, by attaching responsible behaviors.

Environmental receptors affected by the petroleum E&P are the; lithosphere which addresses land, hydrosphere which addresses water and atmosphere which addresses air (Richter & Kreitler, 2003 p. 253). Surveys has shown that petroleum E&P cause diverse changes in the immediate land use that influences the overall cultural, social, infrastructure and soil characteristics. Land is exploited by explorers in the production of the energy. Findings indicated that line cutting is part of deforestation in paving way for exploration of energy. Oil exploration will lead to massive deforestation, environmental devastation and degradation.

Surveys have shown that oil extraction releases drilling by-products that are toxic, much of which will find its way to the rivers. Oil spillage is a result of leakages and broken pipelines. Opening up of the exploration site through a road will create a way for developers and colonists that will influence the natural beauty of the area under oil exploration. Open waste pits and chemicals will affect the waterways and the land; which in return will cause havoc to the ecosystems.

Line cutting is influenced by heavy duty slashers, vibrator trucks, drilling rig operation, routine operations and geophones operations. All these aspects will affect the receptors in the rainforest.  Drilling rig creates dip holes on the surface of the earth, in attempt of penetrating deep into the crust of the earth. Vibrator trucks are developed in a way to offer limited disturbance to the surface of the earth. Geophone is used in converting the movements of the ground into voltage, which is sensitive in developing a seismic response. All these factors will influence the natural features of the land.

Petroleum E&P has contributed to a number of detrimental impacts on surface water, ground water, soils and the ecosystems (Cairns & Niederlehner, 2001 p. 901). Environmental issues caused by the petroleum E&P are contributed by improper disposal of the petroleum products. Ground surface disturbances are contributed by the construction of the roads, sinking wells, site clearance, tank batteries, pipelines and brine pits among others.

Nations concerned in the petroleum E&P has set aside policies that guide the petroleum E&P; which are in concern with the environmental conservation (Kiss & Dinah, 2001 p. 80). Mitigation factors used to overcome issues of Lithosphere could subject explorers to using helicopters to drop and pick workers involved in petroleum E&P, which will do away with the construction of roads that disrupts the lithosphere.

Hydrosphere is another receptor influenced by the petroleum E&P. It is argued that Petroleum E&P has contributed to saline water with toxic metals, inorganic and organic components, radium 226/228 and a number of radioactive materials (Nevill, 2000 p. 2). The harmful chemicals and substances are released to the creeks, streams and water ponds ultimately resulting to salt scars, groundwater pollution and surface water pollution. Nations have noted the extent of water pollution by the petroleum E&P to an extent that some nations has set out clear rules and regulations to manage the environmental hazard.

Petroleum E&P has influenced the marine life, it has been noted fish has suffocated as a result of the environmental degradation contributed by the oil spills (General Accounting Office, 2003 p. 69). Oil is lighter than water, an indication that it floats on water. Under such circumstances, oxygen fails to penetrate in the water hence suffocating the living matter in the water to death (Richter & Kreitler, 2003 p. 261). Water management and mitigation is best addressed by avoiding irresponsible dumping of the petroleum wastes in the environment. Water reservoirs must be conserved to create an enhancing environment for the future generations.

Atmosphere is part of the environmental receptors affected by the petroleum E&P. Air pollution in the twenty first century is attributed to use of fuels, electricity generation and transportation that is propelled by the petroleum products. Air pollution is realized after burning of fossils fuels that are characterized with natural gas, coal, gasoline and oil among others in the production of energy and electricity (, 2013). Burning of the fossil fuels causes production of the carbon dioxide gas that is part of the greenhouse gases responsible for the pollution of the environment.

Other pollutant gases identify with ozone (O3), Nitrogen Oxides (NOx), Carbon Monoxide (CO), Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), particulate matter, Sulfur Dioxide (SO2), lead and mercury among others. Air pollution is part of the negative health effects in human beings (Vance & Larson, 2008 p. 50). It is argued that exposure of the mercury, lead and sulfur dioxide among other emissions are responsible to hazards in public health and to the greenhouse effect. Lead and Mercury poison human body organs that lead to death and brain damage.

Green house effect is attributed to the excessive production of the carbon dioxide gas in the atmosphere (Kharaka & Hanor, 2003 p. 99). Greenhouse effects has led to polar ice caps melting, rising levels of the sea levels, irregular precipitation, reduced visibility, desertification, urban smog, flooding, hurricanes, heat waves, tornadoes and droughts among others. Indirect effects of the atmospheric pollution are characterized with deaths that are weather related, infectious diseases and water and food shortages in the world. Air pollution influences the ecosystems threatening the mother earth (Cairns & Niederlehner, 2001 p. 934).  Nitrogen oxides and sulfur oxides combine with water to from acid rain , which has negative effects to the soil, vegetation, forests, lakes, soil and the aquatic life. Acid rain corrodes buildings which add a cost of living to the human beings in planet earth.

Air pollution has diverse economic effects, it has been noted that health costs are ever rising, premature deaths due to pollutants, taxes, regulations and price fluctuations of petroleum products. Governments have been encouraging using ‘green’ energy that is recyclable (Robinson, 2003 p. 100). Green energy conserves the natural environment. Some of the common green energy is obtained from biomass production and use of wind energy. Mitigation and management of air pollution involves the atmospheric experts in making the gases released to the atmosphere less hazardous, an encouragement to the usage of the green energy (Kadri, 2000 p. 55).

Green organizations are concerned with the conservation of the natural environment, climate change affects all living things, and it has a permanent effect. Green movement in petroleum E&P has been welcomed by a number of organizations, some of the organizations use the green movement as a model of marketing, and at the same time sensitizing the target customers on applying measures in environmental conservation (MacDonald, 2006 p. 61). Green movement in environmental conservation is more on developing models that teach, convince, communicate, support, enable and encourage active participation in conserving environment in the world.

Environmental pollution is a reality, since the 1960s, scientists have been warning the inhabitants of planet earth on the negative effects of the environmental degradation. It is argued that the human activities are the major contributors to the environmental degradation. Some academic institutions have responded to the environmental issues, with the development of environmental related programs (Kadri, 2000 p. 13). Effective management of the environment is possible through environmental ethics, environmental education and setting policies protecting the environment (Kiss & Dinah, 2001 p. 9).

Technological developments in the twenty first century have reduced the environmental degradation by petroleum E&P through improved technology and industrial practices. The regulations cover offshore and onshore management of the environmental concerns attributed to the petroleum E&P. Technology has led to the development of clean coal technology that apply chemicals in reducing the hazardous effects of the gases emitted to the atmosphere (Kharaka & Dorsey, 2005 p. 62). Different research and design departments in different organizations have been working closely in developing models and systems that are sensitive to the conservation of the environment. Environment conservation is not a request, it is a mandatory effect in sustaining planet earth.

In conclusion, EIA contributes significantly to the environmental conservation through project managements. EIA collects and analyses information relating to conservation of the environment, in mitigating and recommending the right models that conserves the environment to the highest degree possible (Energy Information Administration (EIA), 2004 p. 49). Petroleum E&P has been associated with massive environmental deterioration, an indication on the need of regulating the industry to protect the environmental receptors identifying with lithosphere, atmosphere and hydrosphere among others (EAM, 2004 p. 27).

Oil Production Field – Texas

Courtesy: (Satellite Imaging Corporation (SIC), 2010)

Seismic Vibrators – Sahara

Courtesy: (Satellite Imaging Corporation (SIC), 2010)

Oil production field

Courtesy 🙁 Satellite Imaging Corporation (SIC), 2010)

Subsurface Operations

Courtesy 🙁 Satellite Imaging Corporation (SIC), 2010)



List of References

Cairns, J. & Niederlehner, B. R. (2001). Estimating the Effects of Toxicants on Ecosystem Service. Environmental Health Perspectives. 102 (11), 930-948.

EAM. (2004). 21 Activities for Local and Global Environmental Conservation towards the twenty-first century. Eco Action Manual. 21 (1), 7-39.

Edwards, J. D. (2007). Crude oil and alternate energy production forecasts for the twenty-first century: The end of the hydrocarbon era. AAPG Bulletin. 81 (3), 1292– 1305.

Energy Information Administration (EIA) (2004). Annual energy outlook 2004 with projections to 2025. Washington, D.C.: Overview. 12-88.

General Accounting Office. (2003). National wildlife refuges: Opportunities to improve the management and oversight of oil and gas activities on federal lands. GAO. 3 (517), 61-78.

Kadri, J. (2000). Community-Based Environmental. A Resource Book for Protecting Ecosystems and Communities. 2 (2), 11-61.

Kharaka, Y. K. & Dorsey, N. S. (2005). Environmental issues of petroleum exploration and production. The American Association of Petroleum Geologists/Division of Environmental Geosciences. 6 (3), 61-63.

Kharaka, Y. K. & Hanor, J. S (2003). Deep fluids in the continents: I. Sedimentary basins. 3rd ed. New York: Drever. 67-149.

Kiss, A. & Dinah, S (2001). International Environmental Law. Ardsley-on- Hudson, New York: Transnational Publishers, Inc. 05-81.

MacDonald, M. E (2006). Shared Hope: Environment and Development Agendas for the 21st Century. Routledge: Stockholm Environment Institute. 34-88.

Nevill, J. (2000). Principles of Environmental Impact Assessment. Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). 4 (7), 1-2.

Richter, B. C. & Kreitler, C. W (2003). Geochemical techniques for identifying sources of ground-water salinization. 3rd ed. Boca Raton, Florida, C. K. Smoley: CRC Press, Inc.. 248-268.

Robinson, N (2003). Agenda 21: Earth’s Action Plan Annotated. New York: Oceana Publications, Inc. 04-102.

Satellite Imaging Corporation (SIC). (2010). Oil and Gas Exploration and Production. Available: Last accessed 12th June 2013. (2013). Environmental Impact Assessment Principles and Process. Available: Last accessed 08st June 2013.

Vance, T. A. & Larson, A. B (2008). Fiscal Impact of Major Land Uses in Culpeper County. Virginia: Piedmont Environmental Council. 39-81.

Veil, J. A. et al. (2004). A white paper describing produced water from production of crude oil, natural gas and coal bed methane. Argonne National Laboratory Report. 31 (109), 77-98.




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