Oil in Troubled Waters

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Introduction

Deep sea drilling involves exploration of the sea and oceans in search of gas and oil. This is usually driven by the need to find alternative sources of energy to importing from foreign countries. Deep sea drilling calls for adequate funds, skilled labor and a lot of caution; otherwise, the effects are not desirable and are usually long-term. The following is a description of the benefits and threats posed by deep sea drilling.

Pros and Cons of Deep Sea Drilling

The deep sea drilling Project (DSDP) was meant to carry out investigations into the evolution of ocean basins through core drilling of the underlying oceanic crust and ocean sediments. The project was funded by the JOIDES, a consortium which is a leading oceanographic institution. The aim of the Deep Sea Drilling Project was to look for scientific information that would assist in the determination of the processes and the age of the development of the ocean basins. The principal strategy was to drill holes in the floor of the ocean, with a huge reliance on the technology that the petroleum industry developed.  The first coring activity occurred in August 1968. They achieved their scientific objectives during their eighteen months operation in the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Caribbean. Their achievements set the pace for governments to start oil exploration through deep sea drilling.

Deep water drilling of oil is a new technology which is availing deep sea waters for drilling. It is projected to become more profitable with the rising prices of oil and the gradual depletion of oil reserves. This technology is working to reduce US reliance on foreign oil and a more improved environmental health in the shallow coastal areas.

With depleting oil reserves all over the world, deep sea drilling might turn out to be the only option for most countries, as a source of oil. Deep sea drilling has commenced with drilling already taking place in the Gulf of Mexico, drilling down seven thousand feet of water and over 25000 feet of the sea floor. The amount of oil in these deep sea locations is unknown and could improve oil reserves for a long time. Out of ten oil reserves in the world, nine are depleted, while the world still relies hugely on them as a source of energy. Renewable sources of energy are continually growing as a major focus for the future of consumption of energy, though, finding new reserves of oil will still be crucial as research goes on to improve upcoming options.

Deep sea drilling will reduce over dependence on oil from the Middle East countries. Success of deep sea drilling though will depend on the amount of money a country is willing and is capable of sacrificing for the process. Deep sea drilling is a tremendously expensive process and can oil be afforded by the developed countries. The US. Plans to improve domestic, offshore drilling, in order to reduce over dependence on foreign oil in the future. The proposal by the US will lay more focus on deep water drilling off the East Coast, and will see many areas that are shallow restricted for environmental reasons. This plan has been taken positively by both liberals and republicans since it does not neglect environmental and renewable resources importance, and most likely will lead to more jobs being created, hence, a stronger economy in the years to come. Such plans are aimed at making the US self sustainable through less dependence on foreign oil.

Coastlines have been closed off around North America due to environmental risks for years. An oil spill off the Santa Barbara coast was one significant event, which led to the area being closed down. Deep sea oil drilling will always protect such sensitive ecosystems while still permitting progress in domestic energy. Those cities along the coast that are more exposed to health hazards because of the ocean will be much more protected from deep sea drilling, compared to the shallow, and become less economically affected in relation to the tourism industry which is largely associated with cities along the beach.

Deep sea drilling leads to employment opportunities for the locals. Skilled and unskilled labor is required for deep sea drilling thus offering jobs. Labor is required in operation of machinery as well as skilled labor. Quantity and the quality of the resources of groundwater get affected by gas and oil drilling, with the actual effect being dependent on methods of disposal and  drilling practices and techniques. Hydraulic fracturing, improperly sealed wells, and cross-aquifer mixing may be caused by groundwater pollution. Depletion of groundwater is probable during the process of drilling, or as a result of consumption of water through non drilling uses, such as concrete production and dust control (Benson and Rehbock, 2002).

Also known as fracking, hydraulic fracturing, is a process of drilling in which water, chemicals and sand, get injected under high pressure in order to break through the underground formation of rocks. This process is increasingly being used, following the rising sophistication of fracturing technologies. It is being used to access the deposits of gas in deep shale formations. While the process is claimed to be safe by gas and oil companies, ground water pollution reports are becoming common in places where drilling operations takes place. There are numerous large natural gas shale deposits in the United States, such as the Marcellus Shale in the East US. Increased use of fracking by the drilling companies in areas that are over populated is gradually raising controversy. Hydraulic fracturing could lead to unintended surrounding water contamination by fracking chemicals, methane and other toxic materials which are released from the layers of shale, inclusive of heavy metals. Water wells in the Marcellus region have been found to be contaminated with methane from the surrounding drilling activities. Large amounts of waste water also result from fracking and must be taken through a treatment process at local waste treatment plants. Wastewater spills and inadequate treatment have led to insignificant pollution of surface water at a proximity of the drilling sites.

Improper sealing of gas and oil wells after completion of extraction can result to ground water pollution. This pollution type is usually more common with the older abandoned wells. 45000 new wells were, however, drilled in 2010 only, and they surely are expected to offer problems in the future. Failure to properly seal wells could result to contamination of groundwater from brine water, gas and oil. Older wells are also vulnerable to disturbance from hydraulic fracturing in new drilling activities, resulting to increased contamination (Michelle and Angelo, 2008).

Large amounts of ground water are required in most of the drilling processes. Water drawn up along gas or oil result from drilling operations. As the well ages, amount of water produced increases. Hydraulic fracturing is a water intensive activity, requiring from three to eight water gallons per well, most of which get taken from the ground water. Ground water may also be made use of in a variety of other purposes in the drilling operations.

Greater domestic production will result from deep offshore drilling of oil. More offshore drilling will result to greater production of oil and less dependence on imported oil and gas, much of which is got from regions that are politically unstable. Importation of oil from outside calls for heavy funding from the government leading to the government. This results in the government using money that would otherwise have been used for other economic activities in the importation and refinery of crude oil from outside. When a country produces her own oil, it saves on the cost of transportation, also benefits from selling the oil to other countries.

Deep sea drilling will lead to lowered gasoline prices, as a result of increased supply. Local, deep sea drilling will result in improved and constant supply of oil to local motorists at a cheaper price. Through loyalties, the state will benefit from increased drilling, as a result of increased government revenues.  Billions will also be generated in state and federal revenues via loyalties from the opening of the areas that are restricted to offshore drilling. In order to lower spill rates, improvements are being applied to technology. Such improvements are also aimed at lowering the risk of environmental hazards. Less oil spills have been experienced in the last four decades, as a result. Technology developments are being channeled to the achievement of machinery that will perform drilling with little or no damage to the environment or destroying of the animal and plant habitats. Deep sea drilling has also created a lot of jobs for American workers. Land development after drilling and the drilling process itself will assist in engaging people, hence creating jobs for many citizens.

The oil present in the deep sea drilling has barely reduced United States’ dependence on the oil imported from outside. The US economy requires approximately eight billion oil barrels annually if it is to meet its current oil needs. In its conventional form, deep sea drilling is expected to provide eighteen billion barrels in total. Even with the deep sea drilling, gas prices are not guaranteed to go down. Too many other variables influence gas prices, and we may, therefore, not merely assume that changing one of the variables will change the other (Warme, Douglas and Winterer, 2009).

Oil spills seem to be inevitable as a far as deep sea drilling is concerned. Whether minor or principal, oil spills adversely affect the environment. Such spills usually take place while the oil is being transported in tankers to the land, though even pipelines may cause spills. Spills are a pressing and real danger to the environment, and massively drain both energy and resource. Oil spills are still predicted and common in spite of improved technologies. Under the current rates of extraction, the Gulf of Mexico is predicted to experience at least one oil spill per year over the next forty years, of not less than a thousand barrels.

Deep sea drilling requires the keeping of manned facilities floating on water, and oil rigs disposal is expensive, making it challenging to keep up. Construction scale that is required for functional facilities and the need for facilities placed in the water where the oil would be extracted from the ocean remains the challenge. This demands extra effort and funds. Removal of pipelines and platforms that are not being used any longer is also extremely expensive. Expansion of deep sea drilling will mean increased use of machinery hence increased carbon emissions, contributing to warmer global conditions. A 1969 incident saw millions of gallons of oil spill of the Californian coast leading to offshore drilling being restricted. Increased drilling would result to more of such cases.

Devoting resources to deep sea drilling mean that, theoretically, opportunities to discover other energy sources have been forsaken. Safety of the workers is also another problem with deep sea drilling. Eleven workers were found dead in Gulf Coast on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig when it exploded. 1400 accidents have been reported in the oil rigs, though most were not fatal. Expansion and exploration of deep sea drilling could endanger the lives of more workers.

The biggest problem that results from deep sea drilling is environmental.  Environmental risks were said to be overblown before that Deepwater Horizon Collapse. The oil rig was indeed supposedly designed with a ‘fail safe’ feature that would permit shutting off of pipelines in case of such a collapse. Such features, though, are not entirely safe from failure. Shut off valves fail to shut off when submarines are sent to shut them off leading to more oil leakage to the Mexican Gulf. Oil spills, which may result from an oil spill as a result of deep sea drilling, also affects the wildlife. This can be noted with the presence of dead fish and turtles along the shore in places where spillage have been reported (Freudenberg and Gramling, 1994). Environmental damage impacts the economy negatively due to closure of fishing areas in those places that are experiencing spillage. Experts are already predicting a loss of more than $2.5 billion. Deep sea drilling also results to an interruption to the creatures that exist in the seabed. These include creatures that are yet to be discovered by scientists. Before setting out for a drilling operation, such factors as the effect of the operation on the ecosystem should be considered.

Conclusion

Deep sea drilling usually affects the environment negatively, in case of oil spillage. It also interrupts the ecosystem. Also, it requires a lot of funds to successfully carry out deep sea drilling. Despite the shortcomings, the benefits of deep sea drilling can never be overlooked. It leads to reduced cost of oil and gases due to increased supply, as well as offering job opportunities.

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