Impacts of Petroleum Exploration, Extraction and Transport
Oil shale may be defined as those rocks that usually contain a high proportion and percentage of organic matter such as kerogen. Oil shale is mainly characterized by the low calorific value as well high ash and even mineral content. Oil usually produces energy, which serves a very crucial purpose to our planet. Energy is regarded as the lifeblood of the planet earth and its occupants, thereby, being categorized as among the essential commodities that normally powers the intentions to expand the global economy (Burnham, Stubblefield, & Campbell, 1980). In the 1950s, natural gas and oil became the primary sources of liveliness for the increasing pollution in the world. Many commentators argue that the oil usage as the main source of energy will continue for several decades, which make the implication of petroleum exploration, extraction and even transport to be experienced up to date. However, the impact of such activities is usually encountered in various fields such as biosphere, hydrosphere, lithosphere and even atmosphere. The exploration for and the production of petroleum, as well as its transportation, have caused local negative impacts to the soils, groundwater, ecosystem and even the surface of the earth (Donnelly, Dalal-Clayton, & Hughes 1998, p. 150).
Oil shale contains hydrocarbons, which are usually trapped particularly in the pores of the rock source. It is revealed that this type of oil is in its premature state commonly known as kerogen. Therefore, to transfer this kerogen into usable oil, approximately 450 degrees Celsius of heat is required to transform it. This process usually entails a lot of heat, which is needed for the oil shale to be transformed into usable oil. Kerogen is normally mixed with some layers of already matured oil, which can be traced in the structures of that are in between the source rocks. These source rocks have low permeability, and thus the oil is categorized as the tight oil (Chiras, 2013). The process that is used to produce the boil is referred to as hydraulic fracturing. The process usually has a massive impact on the environment and its occupants. Commentators believe that the oil shale will eventually destroy the wildlife habitat all throughout Colorado, Wyoming and even Utah. As we speak, United States of America possesses approximately 16,000 square miles of oil shale Resources, which endangers all the human beings and other living organism living around the mentioned regions (Tordo, Johnston & Johnston 2010, p. 45).
The Green River formation in the Northwest Colorado, Northeast Utah and Southwest Wyoming emerges to have massive deposits of the source rocks. The region is considered to have the most valuable wildlife in the United States. This particular region supports a wide and impressive array of the wildlife, which includes black bears, lions, mule deer, and bald eagles (Gao 1998, p. 140). It is also projected that a small community of people usually lives at the same region. Additionally, there are people such as wildlife viewers, hunters, anglers, guides support, and outfitters. Oil shale is very harmful to the health of human beings as well as other living things (Rabasa, 2006). On the other hand, oil shale has a positive impact to human beings since it provides them with a source of energy, which makes their lives easier. Many activities in man’s world require energy in order for them to run smoothly. In addition, most of the machines require petroleum products for its smooth operation. This implies that the oil gotten from the oil shale source rocks plays a vital role in the enhancement of economic activities.
The development of oil shale usually requires a lot of water in order for it to be processed. This implies that hydraulic fracturing process mainly needs a lot of water (Scotland Mineral, 2012 ). It is estimated that 2.6 barrels of oil shale require about 5 barrels of the freshwater. Moreover, the optimum production rate involving oil shale projects that approximately 1.55 million barrels of the oil shale produced in a day needs about 360,000 acre-feet or 326,000 gallons or 43,460 ft3 of water in a year (ESTADOS UNIDOS 1980, p. 200). Colorado, Utah and even Wyoming are considered to be arid states and thus have scarce water resources. Water is absolutely crucial and vital to the local ecosystems and economies in the West region. Evidently, the BLM (Bureau of Land Management) carried out an analysis, which revealed that oil shale development in the region would greatly increase the competition for the already existing limited water. Moreover, the water might be contaminated with harmful chemicals arising from the fracturing process. The water channeled back to the river has heavy metals such as arsenic and mercury as well as radioactive particles, which might be harmful to the aquatic life (Water Resources Management Workshop, & Andrews, 1975).
Oil shale production process destroys the atmosphere by emitting the harmful gases, which increases the greenhouse effect. However, at this particular time many states and nations are spreading the awareness in order to reduce the greenhouse gas effect (SPEIGHT 2012, p. 70). In addition, commercial oil shale process is known to be producing about 15% to 50% of the GHG emissions compared to the conventional methods. For the oil shale product to be extracted and usable, the companies involved must ensure that they heat the ground for about 2-3 years. Furthermore, in order to produce 1 million barrels of the oil shale per day would need energy output of approximately 10 new power plants as well as 5 new coal mines. This makes the process to produce massive gases, which destroys or depletes the Ozone layer. The destruction of the Ozone layer may come with very harmful effects such as cancer and other destructive diseases (Benddow, 2002).
It is obvious that Oil shale production plants occupy very large tracks of land that may be useful in fields such as agriculture. The industry has rights over 200,000 acres of the oil shale deposits as well as another 3 million acres of the oil shale that is mainly found in private lands. These lands can be used to grow or cultivate foodstuffs. Besides, the process usually consumes landscape that may be used in agricultural activities since the rig pad requires space for fluid storage, technical equipment and also road access for the delivery of the products. Useful land masses are being wasted, yet can be put into productive. The process may lead to soil erosion if not well managed. Disposals or wastes dumped on the land results to massive land or soil pollution. Water wastes from the project may be disposed in useful land, thereby, rendering the land surfaces insufficient from nutrients. Therefore, revegetation of these lands may be a good method of reinstating soil nutrients.
In the 1950s, oil and natural gas were viewed as the main sources of energy even though the population was speculated to be increasing at a higher rate. Energy Information Administration (EIA) anticipated that these sources of energy would be used for several decades before an alternative source become primary. In the U.S., the production of petroleum began in the year 1859, when the Drake’s well was at the verge of being drilled. Currently, oil and the natural gas supply roughly 63% of the total energy being consumed across America (Mittal, 2011). Research indicates that, by the year 2025,, the use of oil in the U.S. will have increased by about 40% to approximately 28.8 million barrels per day and to about 31.4 tcf/yr as projected by EIA. EIA claims that the heavy consumption of petroleum carries both benefits and environmental impacts that may affect regional, as well as global zones. The production of petroleum may result to air pollution, oil spills, and global climate change. Global warming and air pollution are regarded as a consequence of petroleum exploration and production, which have massive damage to the environment (Jaber & Probert, 1999). Oil shale production mainly causes local detrimental impacts such as soil pollution to the large tracks of lands which might be useful for agricultural activities. Additionally, the production of oil shale interferes with biosphere, lithosphere, hydrosphere and atmosphere. The ecosystem is majorly destroyed by the production of the oil shale. The hydraulic fracturing process usually produces hydrocarbon, which is very harmful to the environment. Impact of surface or ground surface disturbances in order to establish several wells, construction of roads, brine pits, pipelines, and tank batteries usually destroy massive tracks of lands that could be useful for agricultural activities (Environmental management 1997, p. 130).
Introduce policies that force the companies to treat the waste water effectively before releasing it into the river. Special precautions should be introduced in order to control wastage or sewage disposal into the river. Ensure the companies build wastage storage for contaminated water (Speight 2012, p. 70).
Anticipate for reduction of all surface ground activities that misuse large tracks of land, which could be useful in agricultural activities. Introduce policies that regulate and control the land capacities being hold by these companies. Implement policies that regulate waste disposal, thereby, avoiding soil erosion. Additionally, encourage re-vegetation to such lands tracks in order to restore soil nutrients.
Introduce policies that would regulate the production of oil shale in order to curb the emission levels of the Greenhouse gas. Advocate for installation of control equipments that would ensure the control of these gases is managed, thereby, saving the Ozone layer. Community buildings should be established in about half to one kilometer greenbelt, which is, in addition to the physiographical barrier, (United States 1974, p. 170).
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