Environmental risks in the oil and gas industry

Environmental risks in the oil and gas industry

In this article, we will examine the environmental risks in the oil and gas industry, which may help you in ISO 14001.

The oil and gas industry is a global industry whose activities are carried out in any part of the world and in any weather, from the pole to the desert, from tropical forests to temperate forests and in the heart of the seas.

Due to the economic growth of countries such as China and India and their increasing need for energy, the demand and consumption of oil and gas will increase. Therefore, the current challenge is to meet the energy needs of the world with the least adverse environmental effects.

Of course, exploitation of oil and gas reservoirs has never been done without ecological side effects; Leakage of polluting substances, damage to the surrounding lands, fires and water and air pollution have been observed in different places. Recently, issues such as the consequences and social consequences of the implementation of projects, especially in remote areas, have attracted the attention of experts and officials. The world’s oil and gas industry has been working to protect the environment for a long time and has achieved remarkable results. But it should be noted that more progress can always be achieved.

For this purpose, it is necessary to examine the environmental issues in the oil and gas exploration and extraction industries and the best approaches in achieving a more appropriate environmental performance. Of course, only exploration and extraction activities are discussed here and there is no discussion about storage, transmission or downstream processes of oil and gas.


environmental effects

Oil and gas exploration and extraction processes can have various environmental effects, depending on the stage of the process, the complexity and volume of the project, the nature and sensitivity of the surrounding environment, the effectiveness of the plan and program, pollution prevention methods and control and impact reduction techniques. be variable Of course, many efforts have been made to develop management systems, operational methods and engineering technology in order to reduce environmental effects and have significantly reduced the amount of environmental damage.

The activities related to exploration and extraction can leave various human, social, economic, cultural effects and effects on the atmosphere, aquatic life, land animals, and the entire biosphere. The first stages in the discovery of oil and gas reserves (preliminary studies, aerial mapping, seismic and exploratory drilling) are short-term, but in case of successful discovery, the nature of the project becomes longer and becomes estimation, development and then extraction. With proper planning, design and control of operations in each phase, adverse effects can be prevented and reduced. It should be noted that possible consequences and adverse effects of all stages of exploration and production can be systematically evaluated before starting the project and appropriate measures can be taken.

Human, social, economic and cultural works

Exploration and extraction activities can have economic, social and cultural effects. These works and the resulting changes are very important, especially for native people whose traditional life is affected. These key works may include changes in the following:

– Its direct effect is changing the usage pattern (agriculture, fishing, forest, hunting) to industry. Creating new communication ways, undesigned residential areas and exploitation of natural resources are among the secondary effects;

– Change in the population of the region due to the migration of people (work force) and the migration of the population of remote areas to other areas due to the creation of new communication routes;

– Changing economic and social systems as a result of creating new job positions, uneven income, inflation and change in per capita income;

– Change in cultural and social systems, destruction of cultural heritage, change in customs and beliefs and transformation of values ​​due to the presence of non-native people;

– Availability and availability of goods and services such as accommodation, education, health, water, fuel, electricity, sewage and consumer goods that are transferred to the site due to the implementation of projects;

– The occurrence of conflict between the development and protection plans of the environment, natural resources, tourism and historical and cultural reserves of the region, which must be planned to be resolved;

– Destruction of the beauty of the area due to the construction of noisy and unsightly facilities;

– Changes in transportation methods and systems due to the development of roads, sea and air infrastructure and the resulting consequences (such as noise and risk of accidents, etc.).

In the case of proper consultation and cooperation with experts, these cases will leave positive effects, for example, the development of infrastructure, water resources, sewage and treatment systems, health and education are among the positive effects of these changes. However, due to the unbalanced distribution of resources and the inability of some local administrators to predict the consequences of these changes, unforeseen problems arise. These effects and unpleasant consequences can be avoided by careful planning, consultation, proper management and discussion with local residents.


Atmospheric works

Increasing attention to atmospheric problems has led the oil and gas industry to focus on ways to reduce pollutant emissions. In order to investigate the results of exploration and extraction, it is necessary to investigate the sources and nature of the emission of pollutants and their contribution to atmospheric effects. The main sources of pollutant emissions in oil and gas industries are:

– Gases from ventilation, refining and burning excess gas

– Combustion processes such as diesel engines and gas turbines

– Volatile gases resulting from loading and storage operations or waste from equipment

– Dissemination of airborne particles caused by soil disturbance during construction and movement of vehicles

– Particles from other sources such as well testing

Important polluting gases include carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, methane, VOC volatile organic carbons, nitrogen oxides, sulfur oxides and hydrogen sulfide.

The volume of substances released into the atmosphere and its effects depend on the nature of the process. Of course, the release of pollutants in exploration activities is usually considered low, but during extraction, according to the activities that are performed, the amount of release is higher. Burning excess gas in mining is the main source of emissions of pollutants in the atmosphere; Especially where the necessary infrastructure or suitable market for its consumption is not available. Of course, if practical, the excess gas is processed and distributed as a by-product. Therefore, with integrated development and proper marketing, gas burning will be greatly reduced. Burning excess gas, ventilation and combustion are the main sources of carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide emissions in the process. Sources producing other pollutants should also be considered and controlled. For example, control of methane generated from process ventilation and in a smaller volume from equipment leakage and gas burning.

In general, the creation of pollutants and its release in the atmosphere should be prevented by using new technologies and management methods.

Impact on aquatic life

The main sources of polluted water from exploration and extraction operations are:

– Water from the well

– Drilling fluids, logs and well preparation chemicals

– Process water, washing and wastewater

– Sanitary sewage in the camp site

– Spilling and leaking chemicals

– Water used as a coolant

The volume of production waste depends on the stage of the exploration and extraction processes, so that during seismic activities, the volume of pollution is at its lowest level and is mainly related to the activities inside the camp or the reservoirs used. During drilling, the major wastes are related to drilling fluids and cuttings; While during extraction, most of the waste is related to the water produced from the well.

The type and toxicity of chemicals used in exploration and extraction are available in different sources. Of course, it is known that during drilling, water-based drilling fluids have the least impact on the environment. The most important components of aqueous base fluids are clay and bentonite, which are chemically ineffective and non-toxic; In addition, some of its elements are also biodegradable, and its other components become very little toxic due to dilution with water. Heavy metals in the mud are also low (Pb, Zn, Cd, Ba) because the metals are bound in the minerals in the mud and their bioavailability is limited, but the oily base fluids and oily logs have a high toxicity effect.

Dumping of blue mud and logs in the ocean and seas causes suffocation of marine organisms up to a distance of about 25 meters from the dumping site and is effective on some species up to 100 meters away from the dumping site. However, by increasing the concentration of hydrocarbons in the water, the oil-based muds and logs affect marine organisms, which can have an effect up to a radius of 800 meters from the place of discharge. The effect of water-based flowers and logs on nature is often temporary. Of course, for flowers and oil-based logs, the threshold limit is defined, which is different for different types. Nowadays, by increasing the capabilities of synthetic flowers and their development, they are trying to gradually replace oil-based flowers with them.

The major part of the waste is the water produced from the well. Some other elements in the waste include various amounts of inorganic salts, heavy metals, solid particles, produced chemicals, hydrocarbons, benzene, DHA and sometimes NORM1 substances.

The environmental effects of waste entering non-free waters are highly dependent on the amount of waste, the elements in it, the characteristics of the receiving environment, and its dispersion modes. The extent of the effects is determined through environmental assessment. Therefore, the discharge of wastes into confined waters as well as water sources with small volume requires special attention and care.

Of course, the volume of water produced from the well depends on the type of extraction (oil or gas) and the lifetime of the operation. For example, in the North Sea, it is about 2400-40000 m³/day in oil facilities and 2-30 m³/day for gas extraction. Also, blue logs are scarce at the beginning of extraction. But over time, more water is produced from the collection tank and it may reach 80% or more at the end of the area.

Leakage of chemicals and discharge of residential sewage can also cause pollution of surface water or underground aquifers. Preventing these pollutions is very important, especially when these resources are used for domestic purposes or the waters are exploited as fishing grounds or ecologically important areas. It should be mentioned that in the case of improper construction of roads and work areas, changes will be made in local catchment patterns and surface hydrology.

Impact on drought

Exploration and extraction operations can potentially have effects on the soil that are created from three main sources:

– Mixing and physical mixing of soil as a result of construction

– Pollution caused by overflow and leakage as well as disposal of solid waste

– Indirect effects resulting from the creation of new ways and social changes

Possible effects due to improper design and construction cause soil erosion. As long as the soil is not disturbed and its vegetation is preserved, it maintains its integrity; But if vegetation is removed and soil appears, erosion begins. Changes in soil conditions and characteristics can have extensive effects on surface hydrology in the region and water catchment patterns, increased swamps and damage to habitats, reducing the ability of the environment to maintain vegetation and animal species.

In addition, removal of vegetation can cause secondary ecological problems. Especially when there is a lot of nutrients in the vegetation of the target area (such as tropical rain forests), or where even the few trees present are vital for the survival of wildlife (such as savannah trees), or in areas where natural regeneration and recovery is difficult. It takes place slowly (such as arctic and desert ecosystems). In addition, the preparation of the operation site can encourage local people to harvest more vegetation to meet their needs and desires.

Burying wastes and dumping them in pits near the excavation or extraction site has been a common method of waste disposal. Therefore, in case of seepage and leaching of these materials, they will damage the soil by passing the pollutants and also damage the water sources (surface and underground).

In the past, agriculture and spreading on the ground has been one of the main ways to treat oil waste, mud and water base logs. In drilling a sample well at a depth of 3000 m, about 300-600 tons of mud is used and about 1000-1500 tons of logs are produced, the use of the mentioned methods can lead to many risks. Of course, provided they are evaluated and taken into consideration, they can be used as one of the options in material disposal and purification. These considerations include mapping and determining the hydrology of the area, identifying the chemical compounds in the resulting waste and the composition resulting from mixing the soil with these materials.

Ecosystem effects

Plant and animal communities are affected and damaged by the changes that occur in the surrounding environment and their habitat, as well as the changes in the characteristics of water, air, and soil, and the disturbances caused by noise and disturbing lights, etc. These changes directly affect the ecology; For example, changes in habitats, places of food and nutrients supply, areas of growth and reproduction of animals, migratory routes and movements of animals, indirect vulnerability of hunting animals as a result of the loss of pastures of herbivorous animals that are food for these animals.

Changing the land use and disturbing the soil of the region has caused the removal of vegetation and its secondary effects such as erosion and the creation of sand and mudflats harm the integrity of the ecosystem and can upset the existing balance in terms of nutrients and microbial activity. In the case of improper control, in the long term it will lead to the loss of habitats and the reduction of population and the extinction of animal and plant species, and as a result, the natural life cycle will undergo changes. In addition, ecological changes affect the native population of the region and their traditional life and harm them.


Potential emergency rescues

In the planning and planning of seismography, drilling or mining operations, it should be determined how to deal with and interact with potential emergency events that threaten people, the environment, and facilities. Of course, despite proper planning and design and the implementation of correct control methods and personnel training, the following incidents are likely to occur:

– Spilling fuel, oil, gas, chemicals and dangerous substances

– Eruption of an oil or gas well

– Fire (in facilities and surroundings)

– Defects and unexpected failure of equipment

– Natural disasters and their consequences on activities

– Deliberate vandalism

In the planning and planning of potential emergency incidents, the risk, its extent, the nature and possible consequences and various scenarios should be examined.

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