Thesis Proposal On Petroleum Exploration And Its Environmental Impacts: A Study
United States is one of the countries with considerable reserves of petroleum and its products, and these priceless reserves cater for the needs of millions. Petrol is, therefore, one of God’s blessing, but the explorations of this gift necessitate a hefty price on the environment. This paper is a struggle to understand the studies and have been carried through to date on the subject and to identify and analyze gaps in the research on the impacts of petroleum exploration in the country.
The effects that petroleum exploration and extraction may have on the environment are many, and a few have been widely discussed by a number of scientists, researchers and environmentalists.
The exploration, for instance, makes use of a wide variety of tools some of which emit high-frequency sound radiations and are quite likely to cause disturbances to the marine life. In order to confirm this theory, however, the scientists have to assume that the marine animals do not swim away because of the disruptions that occur underwater.
Another problem is that the entire infrastructure that is set up in order to assemble an extraction site requires a number of roads and railways which leads to much environmental turmoil inclusive of deforestation and trouble to the wildlife. (Nixon 2008)
And let’s not forget the negative consequences of oil spillage that may result from the corrosion of pipes that carry this extracted petrol or any accidents that happen with ships that are designed to move the liquid from one place to another. Apart from the contamination of fresh as well as the sea water, the oil spills pollute the land and lead to the destruction of considerable marine life. (Rainforest Foundation US)
The United States Environment Protection Agency (USEPA) has been able to develop a risk evaluation process which involves for elements. Hazard Identification is one of the evaluation elements which involves the review of the chemicals on the site that may be the reason for major concern and identifying the risks associated with those chemicals.
Another component is the Exposure Assessment which calculates how many chemicals it may be safe to be exposed to and based upon this factor; the researchers determine the hazards associated with a single exploration site. Then comes the Toxicity Assessment, which analyses the level of chemicals that may pose harm to human health.
The final step in the process of risk assessment is risk characterization which analyses the results of Exposure Assessment and Toxicity Assessment to determine the anticipated risks to the environment, as well as human health. (Department of Energy and the Petroleum Environmental Research Forum 2001)
Yet another problem is the number of Seismic surveys that are carried out in order to determine the presence of hydrocarbons beneath the earth’s crust. These surveys are conducted by relaying high frequency sounds through multiple sources at the same time so that the presence, depth and the quantity of the natural resources underground can be determined.
The most major concern in the scenario is the impact that these very loud seismic noises have on the marine life. Several studies have been carried out which show that organisms can die or become damaged when exposed to sounds exceeding 220-230 dB in pressure. A number of studies carried out in Norway and in Canada have also shown that very loud sounds are quite likely to damage the larva of several fish and shellfish. (K. Lee 2011)
The problems, however, is that many studies that have investigated and analyzed the impacts of petroleum exploration and extraction have been unable give the necessary amount of attention to the result of this activity on the contamination of water. Water is the greatest resource and necessity, and it is already scarce considering the current needs of the population and there is dire need to preserve each and every single drop to keep the reserves going.
The problem although is that many of it is being contaminated because of these oil spills, and the issue is quite serious. This is why it deserves the attention that the issue has yet to capture.
The questions that are going to be addressed in this research paper are going to be few but crucial. The main question is that how much of the fresh water has already been wasted or made impure because of this activity.
The other question addresses the implications that these oil spills are having on the environment and on human health, and not to forget the animals that drink from the same freshwater reserves. The third question addresses the efforts that we have been making towards preventing the effluence of fresh water and why we have failed to address the matters in the past.
The objectives of the proposal are plenty and listed below are just a few of those objectives.
According to a three-year scientific study, the oil extraction and processing in the Mala fields in United States have contaminated the ground water to such an extent that it no longer remains fit for human consumption. (Juba) It is to deal with problems like these that the proposal is being drawn up and also to avoid any such problems in the future.
The first step of the project is to test for the contamination of ground water as well as freshwater reserves in areas where petroleum exploration and extraction is in progress. There will be collect water samples from different sources in each area, and they are going to be tested for chemical and other contaminations.
Any water that is unfit for consumption is going to be contracted with different companies to be purified and made apt for consumption. Any water that flows in rivers and streams shall be barricaded so that the animals are preventing from drinking the impure water.
For the area where people have been in the practice of consuming the unfit water, they are going to be tested for possible health defects and shall be vaccinated to prevent further damage. Also, the situation of any water reserve that is unfit for drinking shall be made known to the locals, and they will also be made aware of possible ways that could help make the water useable.
Oils spills often happen because of leakages from the vehicles that carry the oil and sometimes because of the corrosion of pipes that transport the liquid because they become corroded. (Conserve Energy Future) This part of the problem could easily be dealt with by making the regulatory authorities more informed and working with them to come up with ways that could make sure that these water and land contaminations do not happen.
Getting the vehicles to have regular inspections could be one very simple way and this responsibility could be given to the regulatory authorities themselves.
There will be need to collect water samples to be tested for contamination. Like discussed earlier the samples will be collected for the areas where exploration or extraction is underway, and the information about every single site will be obtained from the Oil and Gas Association. The water samples will be from several different sources including rivers, streams and wells. The project team will collect three samples from every source.
An incident came to pass in Glendive Montana during January this year that resulted in an oil spill and considerable contamination of the water supply. The water at the water treatment plant tested high levels of volatile organic compounds which resulted in foul odor in the water of the water supply. The health risks are yet to be made certain, but the water was rendered impure because of one incident which if made a little effort towards could be prevented. (Koch 2015)
Every water sample shall be then tested using a special chemical kit that will be made assembled specifically for the project. Every water sample that tests positive for major contaminants will then be sent to the lab for a detailed analysis.
Based on the data collected, conclusions will be drawn about the extent of damage that oil drilling may be inflicting on the environment. Areas with a high level of damage are going to be made the prime areas of the project, and the water purification activity is going to be most vigorous in these areas.
Ethics and Risk Assessment
With the water testing, there is considerable risk of the test results being inaccurate and less than reliable. For this very reason, the team that is going to take part in the synthesis of chemicals for water testing is going to perform extensive tests on various samples before sending out the sample. To further ensure accuracy, the team has also decided to select and test no less than three samples from each source.
List of References
Lee, K; Armsworthy, S; Cobanli, S (2011) Georges Bank - Offshore Petroleum [Online] Available from < http://www.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/Library/343863.pdf>
Nixon, R (2008) Oil Drilling: Risks and Rewards [Online] Available from http://www.livescience.com/4979-oil-drilling-risks-rewards.html [25 June 2008]
Rainforest Foundation US (n.d.) The Effects of Oil Drilling [Online] Available from http://rainforestfoundation.org/effects-oil-drilling-0
Juba (n.d.) Study: ‘Direct link’ between oil exploration and water pollution in Unity [Online] Available from < https://radiotamazuj.org/en/article/study-%E2%80%98direct-link%E2%80%99-between-oil-exploration-and-water-pollution-unity>
Conserve Energy Future (n.d.) Oil Spill [Online] Available from < http://www.conserve-energy-future.com/effects-of-oil-spills.php>
Wendy Koch (2015) Oil Spills Into Yellowstone River, Possibly Polluting Drinking Water [Online] Available from < http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/energy/2015/01/150120-oil-spills-into-yellowstone-river/>