When you think of oil companies, it’s likely you don’t also think of “environmentally-friendly”. We see news about spilled oil, burning tankers, and other issues, and assume that all oil companies are disregarding the health of our planet. This simply isn’t the case, and you’ll be happy to know that the oil industry is actually working to keep the environment clean.
Here are five ways the industry is helping out with Mother Earth.
The first step to improving anything is realizing there’s a problem to begin with, then gathering necessary information on the problem. Every time a spill, accident, or fire occurs, the oil industry is gathering precious data to use to combat future problems.
When a spill occurs, it can be devastating for the local ecosystems. Flora and fauna alike are affected by the viscous liquid, often restricting their ability to move, breathe, or perform daily functions. The Deepwater Horizon Rig that caused a massive spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010 was much more than just an industrial and environmental disaster; it was a learning experience for the oil industry.
Scientists and researchers from all over the world descended on the Gulf after the spill, and though we’re still learning from it a decade later, the information that was collected has been incredibly beneficial to the industry and has helped pave the way for new containment processes.
2. Better Pipe Maintenance
Maintaining pipelines is a crucial component of keeping the environment clean. Pipes can rupture, leaking oil or natural gas into the environment or even causing explosions and fires under the right conditions. The oil and natural gas industries have focused heavily on creating better maintenance processes and safety standards for pipelines across the country in recent years.
Not only do faulty pipelines put the environment at risk, but they also put thousands of workers at risk as well. Keeping workers and the environment safe not only shows care for the Earth and the industry’s employees but also helps potentially save millions in cleanup dollars.
3. Decreasing Freshwater Usage
Certain processes, such as fracking or separating oil from sands, use millions of gallons of fresh water. This is incredibly damaging to the environment not only because there’s already a shortage of freshwater on a global scale, but also because the wastewater that’s produced is stored in man-made containment units that aren’t always good at containing it.
Fracking wastewater is laced with chemicals that are both harmful to the environment directly and can contaminate other freshwater sources. The oil industry is working hard to minimize the use of freshwater in fracking and separation processes, as well as reducing the amount of wastewater and improving containment.
There’s also some promise in the area of recycling the water itself for use in future processes. In the US, produced water from fracking is being used in certain applications and even some water treatment plants are focusing on better treatment processes to make the water drinkable.
4. Investing In Renewable Energy
Renewable energy is on the horizon, and with the continued focus on wind, solar, hydro, and even tidal energy, the oil industry is starting to take notice. These energy sources offer a promising future, but as of yet, they’re not able to meet the world’s energy demands in an affordable way.
Right now, gasoline, natural gas, and crude oil are much cheaper and more profitable to source, acquire, and sell to the public. Pipelines can transport natural gas thousands of miles away, serving isolated regions and maintaining a constant flow of raw resources throughout the country.
Not to mention, the Canadian economy is highly invested in oil and natural gas, being the 5th and 6th largest producer of each respectively. However, the oil industry isn’t ignoring renewables. With continued investments, we could see a partial or full transition to renewable energy within our lifetime.
5. Using Technology For Better Planning
As technology improves, so too do the processes by which pipelines are planned and built. With new software, engineers can better plan a pipe’s path through an ecosystem in order to minimize the environmental impact. Better diagnostic software can identify issues long before they become spills or ruptures, and even AI tech is playing a role in the oil industry.
Believe it or not, the oil industry is committed to a safer and more sustainable world. By using technology and data, the industry is improving its processes and ensuring that renewable energy remains an option for the future of energy production.