Essays On Offshore Drilling

Offshore oil drilling

Abstract

Today, the United States has over 5600 offshore gas and oil platforms; there are also over 27,000 miles of pipeline in the Gulf of Mexico area alone. This shows the extent to which offshore oil drilling occurs in the United States. In other developed parts of the world, the situation is the same. Oil is a product on high demand; this facilitates efforts in extracting it form its deposits deep in the sea floor. The retrieval requires the use of sophisticated equipment and highly-skilled personnel. Offshore oil drilling involves the operation of oil wells on the continental shelf; this sometimes occurs in waters that are hundreds of feet deep. Its oil extraction techniques can be used to access deposits under the ocean floor. It facilitates the production of gas and oil that benefit the country’s economy. It provides for its petroleum needs and exports excess oil to other countries. However, the drilling comes with several challenges. It has a disastrous impact on the environment; this is especially when dangerous oil accidents and spills occur. The oil affects the air, wildlife, water, marine life and climate as a whole. The effects are short-term and long-term; this results in deaths, lowered quality of life and health complications. There is a need for efficient strategies in curbing and preventing the effects of such oil spills. Various companies employ a wide range of prevention strategies in ensuring the safe extraction of oil from wells. The research paper explores offshore oil spilling and what it entails. It also analyzes the processes and equipment necessary in the extraction. An analysis of statistics and previous accidents presents a need for efficient prevention strategies. It also focuses on the effects of offshore drills on the environment. In conclusion, it provides a summary of recommendations and prevention strategies necessary in preventing the effects of oil on the environment.

Introduction

Offshore oil drilling has been a source of gas and oil for years. The offshore oil drilling process is a mechanical process whereby workers drill bores through the seabed; this process occurs in order to search for and extract oil and natural gas (Diamond Offshore, 1). The oil lies in the rock formations existing beneath the seabed. Several countries worldwide depend on it as the source of raw materials for the production of petroleum products. The venture shows through the construction of several offshore rigs focused on the extraction of oil from seabed deep in the ocean.

In USA alone, there are over 5, 600 offshore gas and oil platforms in operation. Their activities facilitate the production of large amounts of petroleum products. It has a positive impact on the country’s economy. However, the oil drilling also contributes to environmental degradation in a variety of ways (Defenders of Wildlife, 1). They have a tremendous impact on the water, ocean floor, air quality and marine ecosystems. The dangers of deep sea drilling are evident through the years; this is especially in the case of exploration of oil below the depths of 200 meters; the situation worsens due to recent occurrences.

The decline in global oil reserves facilitates the discovery and exploitation of many sources on the seabed. The evident rise in the price of oil worldwide increases the determination of companies in seeking more sources of oil. Many governments encourage and finance this process; they rarely consider the environmental implications of the oil extraction process and possibilities of accidents such as oil spills (Greenpeace, 3). The dangers involved in the deep sea oil drilling are evident and should not be ignored. An understanding of the process and its impact on the environment helps in reducing environmental hazards associated with oil spills. Through offshore oil drilling, an alternative means of discovering oil reserves occurs. The exploration of previously inaccessible oil reserves increases the production of oil; this in turn, lowers its price through high supply. There are several laws and regulations dictating the locations where oil drilling can be carried out; this raises the need for drilling permits showing the drill will occur within the country’s legal provisions. The offshore oil drilling process also faces social and environmental constraints; there are concerns in relation to the oil impact on aquatic life and the environment through pollution. The various issues should be explored in great detail.

Statistics

According to Freudenrich and Strickland, the United States produced close to 4.9 million barrels of oil daily in 2008. An additional 9.8 million barrels were imported from other countries (1). Once the oil arrives, it undergoes refinement into kerosene, gasoline, heating oil and other products. There is a high oil demand within the US; this prompts producers to look for and exploit many sources of the product. It occurred despite the evident hazardous effect it has on the environment the search for new sources of oil continues; the existing wells also undergo maintenance and procedures to increase their production level.

Environmental degradation caused by offshore oil drills majorly results from oil spills; they result in the flow of several tons of oil into the water; this proves hazardous to marine and wildlife. Greenpeace (9) provides a statistical analysis of blowouts worldwide. The offshore drilling blowouts occur regularly; this relates to an increase in the depth of water where the drilling occurs.

Risk Assessment Data from the International Association of Oil and Gas Producers reveals that there were 498 blowouts worldwide; this was in 1970-2007. Out of the blowouts, 128 led to significant oil pollutions. The US National Commission report addressed to the president revealed that, in 1996 2009, the US Gulf of Mexico reported 79 well control accidents; the hydrocarbons flow was uncontrolled on the surface and underground. Later on in 2009, the US Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement recorded 8344 incidents on the Gulf of Mexico oil rigs. The reports included 6 loss of well controlled accidents, 11 oil pollution accidents and 145 explosions and fires.

Norway too, despite its reputation in the regulation of offshore drilling environments, reported 80-100 events annually; these events could have resulted in blowouts if not handled efficiently. Its offshore drilling industry reported 29 acute discharges of crude oil. In 2010, among those, 28 were below 10 tons each; the total discharge volume was 86.5 tons (Greenpeace, 9).

The offshore oil spills have a devastating effect on the ecosystem and organisms. For instance, the Exxon Valdez accident resulted in the death of 100,000 to 250,000 sea birds, 2,800 sea otters, 247 bald eagles, 300 harbor seals and 22 orca. Millions of salmon and herring eggs were also destroyed in the process (Goodyear & Beach, 9).

Offshore oil drilling

The oil and gas industry carry out offshore exploration of oil since 1964; companies must carry out well drilling in order to confirm the presence of natural gas or crude oil within the earth’s surface. The process begins with the analysis by geoscientist; they interpret geological and seismic data in determining the location of oil sources. The rig work involves the drilling of thousands of meters into the sea and weather challenges. They curb the effects of such challenges through the use of stable, large and self-contained platforms in drilling wells. The rigs commonly used off the Atlantic coast are mobile offshore drilling units.

Many people wonder how oil companies find and exploit their oil wells on sea beds; and how they pump it from the sea bed to the surface. Several complex procedures occur in oil extraction in offshore drilling sites. The processes occur through the use of advanced equipment; these operate through highly skilled personnel. It ensures a reduction in the risk of accidents. Often, we witness the sight of black crude oil gushing out of the ground. However, modern production of oil is a complex procedure.

In order to comprehend the concept of offshore oil drilling, it is crucial to analyze the formation process and its extraction from the ground. The extracted oil forms from the remains of dead animals and plants; they are planktons. Planktons are organisms that died in the sea over 10 to 600 million years ago. Once they died, the organisms settled at the bottom of the sea. Through the years, they decayed in the sedimentary layers. Within the layers, oxygen level is low and sometimes non-existence; this facilitates the breaking down of remains by microorganisms into carbon-rich compounds; this forms organic layers. Sediments mix with organic materials resulting in the formation of fine-grained shale; this is source rock. The deposition of new sediment layers exerts pressure and heat on the source rock. The two elements, pressure and heat, distill the materials into crude oil and natural gas.

Crude oil flows from the source rock into the thick and porous sandstone or limestone known as reservoir rock. There is evident movement within the earth due to forces such as tectonic forces. The movements trapped the natural gas and oil in reservoir rocks; these rocks exist between layers of impermeable rocks like marble and granite. The earth movements include; folding, faulting and pinching out. Folding involves the horizontal movements which press inward thus moving the rock layers upward into an anticline or fold. Faulting, on the other hand, involves the layers of rock which crack; one side of the crack shifts downwards or upwards. In pinching out, a layer of impermeable rock squeezes upward into the reservoir rock (Freudenrich & Strickland, 2).

The oil location process

According to Freudenrich & Strickland (3), oil location can be done directly by an oil company or private firms. The geologists carry out the process; their sole responsibility is to find the right conditions for an oil tap. They use knowledge and skills in determining the right reservoir rock, source rock and entrapment. In previous years, they did this through an interpretation of surface features, rocks and soil types. In modern oil geology, they also examine terrain and surface rocks; this process receives help from satellite images.

There are several methods used in the location of oil. Sensitive gravity meters can be used in measuring small changes in the earth’s gravitational field; this helps in indicating the flow of oil. Sensitive magnetometers help in measuring the changes resulting from the flowing oil. They also detect the smell of hydrocarbons through sensitive noses known as sniffers. Last but not least, seismology can be used in the creation of shockwaves; these waves pass through hidden rock layers and interpret the waves reflected back to the surface. The shock waves result from; compressed-air gun, thumper truck and explosives. Compressed-air gun shoots air pulses into the water. Thumper truck, on the other hand, is efficient on land. Explosives detonated when thrown overboard, into the water. The shock waves created travel under the surface and reflected back from the rock layers; these reflections travel at different speeds depending on the density and type of rock layers they pass through. Oil explorers use vibration detectors and sensitive microphones in detecting the reflection of shock waves. Seismologists then interpret the readings; this occurs in order to determine gas and oil traps. The location of prospective oil sources is marked by buoys on the water surface (Freudenrich & Strickland, 3).

Oil drill preparation

Before an oil drilling process commences, there are several preparations that must be made. After site selection, scientists must survey the area; this occurs in order to determine boundaries and conduct environmental impact analysis. It involves the acquisition of documents such as; lease agreements, rights-of-way and titles accessed before the drilling commences (Freudenrich & Strickland, 4).

Once legal necessities occur, the drilling crew begins its work. There are many oil deposits buried deep in the ocean floor; processes in reaching the oil deposits in dangerous but can be rewarding if done efficiently. There have been several accidents in the past relating to failure of equipment and mistakes. The accidents cause death of workers and environmental hazards. Once the companies determine the site for oil production, they use a Mobile Offshore Drilling Unit (MODU) in digging the initial well. Among these units, some convert into production rigs; this means they are no longer used for oil drilling but instead capture the oil. Oil companies usually replace the MODU with a permanent oil production rig; this focuses on capturing oil.

There are four main types of mobile offshore drilling units. They include; submersible MODU, jack up, drillships and semisubmersibles. A submersible MODU has a barge resting on the sea floor; this is at a depth of around 30 to 35 feet; this is 9.1 to 10.7 meters. The barge’s deck has steel posts extending above the water line. At the top of the steel posts is a drilling platform. The rigs are efficient in areas with calm waters (Freudenrich & Strickland, 8).

A jack up, on the other hand, is a rig that rests on top of a floating barge; a ship tows the barge to the drilling site. When it reaches the determined position, the jack up’s extensions reach the sea floor; the extensions prevents the penetration of the sea floor. Once securely installed, the jack up ratchets its legs to raise the platform above the water level; this occurs in order to keep the rig safe from tidal waves and motions; the jack ups function in the depths of up to 525 feet; this is approximately 160 meters.

Drill ships, on the other hand, are ships with installed drilling rigs on their decks. The drills function through a hole created in the hull. Such ships can pilot to the site; they make use of a combination of propellers and anchors in correcting drift as the rig drills for oil. The ship operates even in deep water conditions.

Semisubmersibles float on the ocean surface; they rest on top of big submerged pontoons. Some of them have propulsion systems; these allow the navigation to drill sites. They use their own, whereas, some may require power from another vessel to tow them to the drilling site. Several anchors, up to twelve, maintain the structure’s orientation. They operate under computer control; the computers determine whether the tension on each anchor chain is proper for drift. Some of them can convert from drilling rigs to production rigs; this eliminates the need for another rig once the oil is found.

The MODU drills down into the ocean’s floor where oil deposits exist. The rise in the section of oil rig that extends through the water below the deck. It makes it possible for drilling fluids to flow between the rig and floor. A series of pipes structured to drill down to the oil deposit lower through the riser; this is a drill string. Once on the sea floor, a blowout preventer (BOP) comes in handy. The BOP has a pair of hydraulically-powered camps; these close off the pipe leading up the rig. It occurs in the case of a blowout. Engineers add several pipes to the drill strings as the rig drills down further; each pipe section is about 30 feet long; this is about 9.1 meters.

Metal casings are also necessary during the drilling process; the casing adds stability to the well. It prevents the well form collapsing and resulting in hazards. The casings have cement lining their walls; they become narrower as they get deeper. At every annulus, the engineers seal the two sections together using a line hanger O-ring. An annulus is a section where a narrow casing joins with a wide one.

Once the MODU reaches the oil deposit, the well must be sealed in preparation for an oil rig; this occurs through the use of a pair of plugs. The bottom plug positions near the oil deposit; this is necessary in holding the plug in place as the engineers install the second plug to cap the oil well. Once completed, the oil well is ready for a production rig. Operations of production rigs in offshore oil drilling is similar to land-based rigs.

After removal of the rig, the crew installs a pump on the well head. An electric motor exists in the pump system; this drives a gear box which in turn moves a lever. The lever pulls and pushes a polishing rod up and down. The rod attaches to a sucker rod which in turn connects to a pump. The entire system forces the pump up and down; this creates a suction motion drawing oil up the well. The oil may be too heavy; this makes it difficult for it to flow. In a situation like this, the crew drills another hole into the reservoir; through the second hole, they inject steam under pressure. The heat produced from the steam thins the oil, and the pressure helps in pushing it up the well. It is a procedure known as enhanced oil recovery.

The gas and oil companies focus on the drilling of three main types of wells; these are the delineation, exploration and development wells. Exploration wells help in confirming whether the geological formations detected by seismic surveys have hydrocarbons. The acquisition of positive and promising results mark the beginning of delineation. Delineation wells drill into different parts of the formation; this helps in confirming the formation’s size and characteristic of hydrocarbon resources. The acquired information guides in deciding whether production of the resource is economically beneficial. Positive test results guide the company in proceeding with the drilling of a development well.

Effects on the environment

Oil extraction and drilling have disastrous effects on the environment; these occur during and after the drilling process (Cox, 71). The offshore oil drilling process results in the production of toxic and chemical substances; research studies show the production of substances such as zinc, chromium, lead, arsenic and mercury. Once extracted, these chemicals are released back into the ocean during the extraction process. They contaminate the water and result in the death and poisoning of organisms. The effects of offshore oil drilling should be explored through a focus on specific areas.

Climate change dramatically weakens the foundation on which the ecosystems function. An increase in industrialization activities such as offshore oil drilling increases the challenges faced by phytoplankton and other organisms. Some of the species at risk due to the oil drilling include; polar bears, walruses, fish, beluga, bowhead whales, coastal birds and ringed seals.

Effect on wildlife

A large offshore oil spill results in long-term damage to the environment; the effects affect the organisms within the environment. For instance, in the case of Exxon Valdez accident, thousands of sea otters and birds died from exposure to the oil spill. Harbor seals, bald eagles and orca also died in their hundreds. Billions of herring and salmon eggs were also destroyed. Even years after the 1989 spill, the harlequin ducks and sea otters exhibited high death rates; this occurs due to the consumption of preys in the contaminated soil and water. The contamination also affects them when they ingest the oil on their bodies during grooming (Goodyear & Beach, 9). Even small amounts of oil results in the death of many animals; this is especially if the spill occurs in or spreads to areas where birds and marine mammals breed, feed or rest.

The impact of exposure to oil on furred and feathered animals is both immediate and long-term. Once exposed, the oil immediately eliminates the animals’ thermal insulation. It also weighs them down and often causes hypothermia and drowning.

Organisms that can be destroyed immediately from exposure to spills include zooplankton, phytoplankton and other invertebrates; their consumers like fish also die from exposure. Though many animals die immediately from the exposure, others suffer for weeks and even months. The toxins they come in contact with cause damage to their immune and adrenal systems. They also affect the functioning of lungs, liver, kidneys and other body organs.

The vulnerability of the organisms increases with the extended exposure periods. Apart from causing death, the oil also results in damages in the eyes and skin irritation. The complications affect the animals’ ability to reproduce, avoid predators, and find shelter and food. Their survival becomes a major challenge. The impact of oil spills on sea life, and the environment is worsened by ocean currents; the currents move and spread the spills and chemical substances over large areas; it worsens the impact. For instance, in the case of Shell oil spill, it spread over 57 miles to the Wainright region in north Alaska. The effects of oil spills on organisms are worsened by the inefficient strategies employed in containing and curbing its effects.

Specific effects on animals
Ringed seals

The smallest seal species depend on summer ice as a platform and foraging grounds; the reduction in ice due to global warming interferes with their lives. Death of fish, their main diet, due to oil spills may lead to starvation or consumption of contaminated fish.

Pacific walrus

The production of greenhouse gases facilitates a reduction in sea ice. It makes it hard for walruses to avoid predators, reproduce and do other activities. They also suffer from the effects of loud sounds from the oil rigs and seismic location processes in offshore drilling sites. The sounds affect walruses within a 15 kilometer range; this is very wide. The spills also affect them through the consumption of benthic invertebrates from the main diet.

Eiders

The sea ducks exist in four main species including; common, spectacled, king and Steller’s. Exposure to oil spills interferes with their molting, breeding and foraging areas. The movement of vessels and aircrafts back and forth between the rigs and tankers also causes noise; this affects them. The drilling mud carried by the ocean current to their breeding grounds is potentially hazardous and results in several deaths. Alaska has seen a decline in eider population of up to 96% in the North Slope (Goodyear & Beach, 11).

Polar bears

Apart from the reduction in sea ice that acts as living grounds, oil spills also reduces the bear’s insulation capacity. It may also ingest oil during grooming, leading to death and contamination.

Birds

The oil spills pose direct mortality dangers to the birds through poisoning and oiling. The birds ingest the toxins as they attempt to clean themselves. The toxins building up in the fish are also ingested during feeding. There is an additional annual death of over 200,000 birds due to collision with gas and oil platforms. Through the construction of new pipelines, sensitive marshes and coastal bird habitats are damaged.

Sea turtles

The sea turtles are threatened through the; dredging of nesting beaches, noise disruptions and collisions. Their hatchlings are also vulnerable to oil spills; this is particularly because they spend time near the surface; this exposes them to the spilled oil (Defenders of Wildlife, 2).

Generation of greenhouse gases

The offshore drilling process contributes to the increase in the production of greenhouse gases such as CO2; these gases enter the atmosphere and result in global warming effects. The drilling contributes to an increase in greenhouse gases through the production and use of hydrocarbons; this is hazardous to the environment; this also hinders efforts in reducing the emission of such gases. There is a worldwide effort in reducing gaseous emissions, which alter the earth’s climate (Goodyear & Beach, 1). In the North Slope oil facilities, methane and carbon dioxide are generated in up to 24,000 metric tons and 7.4 million metric tons respectively; this occurs annually. Large amounts of fossil fuels also burn during the production process, exploration, transportation, construction and other phases of offshore oil drilling. It results in further production of greenhouse gases.

Seismic waves

During the location of deep sea oil reservoirs, geologists use instruments of seismic waves. The seismic waves cause harm to the sea animals and disorient whales. For instance, in Madagascar, there was a case where 100 whales beached themselves; this was due to the seismic waves. Despite limited scientific data to back this fact, sounds generated by seismic waves result in injuries, stranding and death of marine mammals (Shell Exploration and the Environment, 5). How is this possible? The presumed hearing range of marine mammals often overlaps the frequency of seismic explorations. Thus, when exposed to the loud noises, the marine mammals’ hearing temporarily reduces. The sounds not only disturb the marine animals, but also prevent them from hearing the sounds they need to hear. The necessary sounds help them in reproducing, foraging and avoiding predators (Goodyear & Beach, 2).

It alters the whale’s behavior particularly in active seismic areas; it deflects them off course and may result in a loss of direction. The whales may regain their course after several kilometers; in some cases, they end up ashore. The waves’ harm to benthic or bottom-dwelling organisms, marine mammals and fish, occurs when they are within 6 to 8 feet of the source of seismic waves.

Impact on geographical structure

The offshore drilling of oil requires the construction of large and complex structures in the sea. The structures are necessary for the drilling, extraction and transport of oil from offshore rigs. The construction of such structures can be detrimental to the environment. In Louisiana, for instance, a series of canals were constructed across the wetlands; they transported oil from the rigs. The constructions, however, resulted in erosion. The drilling efforts destroyed the marsh lands; the canals too resulted in the removal of a crucial storm buffer. Studies show that this may have contributed to the adverse effects of Hurricane Katrina on the areas around the canals (Cox, 71).

Recommended solutions

There are several recommendations that can help in reducing the impact of offshore oil drilling on the environment; they explore the various areas affected by the drilling process.

Permits

The National Environmental Policy Act requires oil companies to contribute towards environmental assessment; this should occur throughout the course of their operations. It is one of many measures needed in gas and oil exploration and production. For instance, in order for Shell to operate in Alaska, it requires 35 major permits; most of these must be renewed on an annual basis. The rigorous oversight is necessary in ensuring efficient and safe operations (Shell Exploration and the Environment, 4). It is crucial for oil companies to work together with the Mineral Management Service, National Marine Fisheries Service and US Fish and Wildlife Service.

Seismic surveys impact on environment

The use of seismic surveys should be made safe for the environment. Shell, for instance, acquired data from the 3-D seismic surveys in the Chikchi Sea in 2006. Today, they are the most efficient pre-drilling tools worldwide; they record energy waves reflecting from rock layers under the sea floor. They provide an accurate depiction of potential hydrocarbon accumulation. Their use reduces the drilling process’ impact on the environment. How is this possible? This is because, through their use fewer wells are drilled in the search for gas and oil. Provision of accurate seismic data thus reduces and eliminates the drilling of unnecessary wells; this increases the recovery from producing fields. It occurs through the production of crucial and reliable information about the geological structures existing beneath the ocean floors.

In regard to the sounds produced during seismic activities, there is little scientific proof of their impact on wildlife and sea life (Center for Biological Diversity, 1). There is limited evidence proving the effect on sound on injuries, stranding and death of marine organisms. However, as a precautionary measure, oil companies should follow in the steps of Shell (SEE, 5). It works with observers in monitoring marine animals’ behavior and the impact sound may have on them.

Climate change

There is a need for government and oil companies to recognize the role of climate change. Greenhouse gas emissions associate with oil companies’ activities during extraction and accidents. The companies should reduce flaring in order to reduce CO2 emission. Flaring is a process during the production stage of burning off gas which rises to the surface alongside the extracted oil. It is a major contribution to the increase in global warming. There is a need to eliminate flaring and make the operations energy efficient. The oil companies should also be at the forefront in advocating for alternative sources of energy. Shell for instance produces 3% of worldwide oil and gas. As the global demand for petroleum products rises, it is evident that dependence on fossil fuels as a source of energy is likely to increase. Despite this fact, the companies should also invest in alternative energy sources; this would reduce the demand for conventional energy sources.

Safe exploration vessels

The vessels are one of the main causes of environmental hazards on the sea; this results from the spills. The oil companies need to use drills specifically designed to operate in the oil sources. During activities on the vessels, preventive measures should be implemented; this reduces the chances of oil spill occurrence. However, in the case where a spill actually occurs, there should be efficient procedures in curbing and minimizing its effects. The vessel’s operations should immediately receive support from a fleet of oil-spill response vessels.

Impact of discharge on the environment

During oil drilling and extraction, various discharges are produced; these affect the environment negatively. There is a need to handle the discharges properly; this occurs in order to minimize the environmental damage. The discharges include; rock cuttings brought to the surface during drilling, produced water rising to the surface with the oil, drill mud, water used in the control of equipment discharged into the surrounding water, ballast water used in the stabilization and balancing of vessels, domestic and sanitary waste from the platforms and vessels (SEE, 8).

The management of discharges should focus on the sea floor terrain, climate and existing regulations. The management process involves chemical studies on their damages to the environment, and strategies in safe disposal of the discharges. During oil spill response, efforts should be made in ensuring minimal environmental damage; the wildlife should not come in contact with the spilled oil. The wildlife management plans should include efforts in monitoring, stabilizing, capture and removal from affected areas. This is possible through the cooperation of governments, oil companies and the communities (SEE, 18).

Burning of fossil fuels

There is a need to eliminate the burning of fossil fuels during production, transportation, construction and other oil drilling stages. The combustion of their hydrocarbons contents results in the emission of greenhouse gases; these contribute to global warming and climatic change. The companies should exploit wind energy; this is efficient, affordable and an inexhaustible source of energy. It does not cause pollution and s cost-competitive with energy from gas-fired and coal power plants. They should also consider the use of solar energy; this is cheaper than conventional energy. The strategies should ensure environmental preservation through the elimination of pollutants (Goodyear & Beach, 14).

In order to operate efficiently, the oil companies should ensure the following occur.

- Spill response technologies and methods should be proven efficient in carrying out their prescribed purposes.

- Necessary infrastructure should be put in place to handle the spills and facilitate the timely response of containment vessels.

- A study of the ecosystem should occur in order to establish a significant understanding of the impact of oil spills on organisms.

- There should be provision of absolute protection to wildlife populations within the oil drilling areas.

- There should be an establishment of a substantial permanent reserve system on-shore and off-shore.

Conclusion

Oil drilling processes continue across the world; many rigs are constructed annually in a bid to increase the production of oil and natural gas. The offshore oil drilling occurs in clearly defined processes. The main drilling method used is the conventional method; this is an oil excavation strategy in which oil wells are drilled vertically into the oil reserves under sea floors. The process requires resources such as; seismic survey vessels, ocean surveyors, metal casings, geologists, giant hammers, drill pipes, drill bits, high pressure drilling fluid known as mud, blowout preventers, pipe nozzles, electric wave tools, sound wave tools and measures of radiation. The major steps in offshore oil drilling include; finding the drilling site, hole creation and insertion of metal casing, drilling into the casing, cementing the casing, connecting the marine riser and the blowout preventer, and drilling the remaining section of the well. During the extraction of oil from the ocean, there are toxic and chemical substances produced. Some of these include; arsenic, lead, mercury, benzene, zinc, barium, iron and chromium released back into the ocean (Eyre, 216). They have a negative impact on the marine ecosystem and environment at large. The seismic waves produced by geologists during oil location also disorients whales and harms sea life. During oil drilling spill accidents often occur; this is evident in the analysis of various accidents in the past. The spills cover the sea surface and even wash up to the shores. The pollution results in mortality and contamination of fish and other animal species. Other mammals, amphibians, birds and reptiles exposed to the oil are also affected through poisoning. Though offshore oil drilling is a crucial source of energy for countries worldwide; its impact on the environment is unavoidable. The government, oil companies and community should work together in curbing the effects of oil drilling on the environment; this ensures the protection and conservation of the environment.

Works Cited

Center for Biological Diversity. Lingering Threats: One year after gulf oil disaster, offshore drilling still urgently needed reform (2013): Web. Available from: < http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/programs/public_lands/energy/dirty_energy_development/ oil_and_gas/gulf_oil_spill/lingering_threats.html > [Accessed December 15, 2013]

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Defenders of Wildlife. Outer Continental Shelf Drilling (2013): Web. Available from: < http://www.defenders.org/publications/impacts_of_outer_continental_shelf_drilling.pdf > [Accessed December 15, 2013]

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Eyre, Safia. The Environmental Impact of Oil Drilling: The case of BP oil spill (2012): Web. Available from: < http://www.iefpedia.com/english/wp-content >

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Goodyear, Jeff and Beach, Ben. ‘Environmental Risks with Proposed Offshore Oil and Gas Development off Alaska’s North Slope’. NRDC Issue Paper (2012): Web. Available from: < http://www.nrdc.org/land/alaska/files/drilling-off-north-slope-IP.pdf > [Accessed December 15, 2013]

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The PEW Environment Group. Policy Recommendations: Oil spill prevention and response in the U.S. Arctic Ocean (2013): Web. Available from: < http://www.pertrusts.org/uploadedFiles/wwwpewtrustsorg/Reports/Protecting_ocean_life/PEW-1010_ARCTIC_Policy_Recs.pdf > [Accessed December 14, 2013]

Oil Drilling Essay

Crude oil is black gold that has been even sought out even in the ancient times. The Chinese in the fourth century drilled 800 feet deep oil wells to burn the oil to produce salt. Oil has a long history. America’s has massive oil demands and off-shore drilling has become a temporary solution and scientist are trying to find alternative sources of energy that can last us a very long time. There are many disadvantages and hazards when it comes to offshore drilling. Theses disadvantages can affect the wildlife, animal population, marine environments, pollution and much more. With there being so many disadvantages for offshore drilling, why continue drilling?

Oil that is spilled in the ocean water can kill. When oil is spilled, oil floats on the surface of water because oil will not mix with water. The oil expands and a thin layer called a slick on the surface of the water. Oil then expands more to become a layer, called a sheen that is 0.01 mm thick. Ecosystems can become imbalanced and animals could die and we could be affected because our food sources would slowly diminish. "Over the past 50 years, humans have changed natural ecosystems more rapidly and extensively than in any comparable period in human history," (Dr Lee) The amount of oil we can get by off shore drilling is not worth the cost if it means possible environmental damage.

Many animals are affected in different ways. Oil does serious damage to the bird’s feathers. The feathers are aligned in a certain way to keep the bird warm and waterproof. Birds apply natural oil on feathers to further keep them waterproof, which is called preening. When a bird comes into contact with crude oil, their feathers mat and separate which exposes the bird’s sensitive skin. Automatically, the bird begins to preen to try and get the oil off and in the processes; they ingest oil, damaging their internal organs. “The focus on preening overrides all other natural behaviors; including feeding and evading predators, making the bird vulnerable to secondary health problems such as severe weight loss, anemia and dehydration.” (IBRRC) The only ones that survive are the one that are rescued by rescue workers.

Oil suffocates fishes. If directly exposed to the oil, a mucous like film covers the body and gills. Crude oil has a toxic compound that is easily dissolved in fish tissue. One of the toxic compounds is Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAH). Oil can cause abnormal development and deformities in fish larvae if they come in contact and can affect fish population. “Spills in rivers and streams disperse the oil by agitation and are similarly more toxic to fish.” (ehow)

Oil rigs use drilling mud or drilling fluid, which is a toxic lubricant that is used in the process of drilling deep boreholes that will be drilled for oil and gas extraction. “Historically, contaminated and dirty mud was dumped in open pits, allowing the natural environment to become polluted.” (Smith, 2010) One drilling platform...

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