The Dangers of Offshore Drilling
The oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico has become the biggest arguments against oil drilling. After years of back and forth debate, the incident finally gives an idea how dangerous offshore drilling is, not only to the people near the area, living creatures living in the affected area and its impact on the environment.
Offshore drilling is the process of extracting gas and oil resources from locations like the sea, lakes or oceans. Through the years, companies have been conducting offshore drillings in the far corners of the earth, deeper and deeper, because shallow fuel reserves onshore are almost gone or exhausted.
According to NOAA or National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, drilling deeper and deeper comes with increased risk or danger, including the risk of having oil spills, fires or accidents. Big oil companies believed that coastline drilling is very safe, but accidents like what happened in the Gulf of Mexico is a constant reminder that it is far from what is happening on site. The fact that almost 500 oil rig experience fires in the Gulf of Mexico since 2006, is a testament that offshore drilling is a dangerous job, not like what most companies want you to see.
Why is offshore drilling dangerous?
One of the main reasons why there is an increase in danger is that of the sophisticated equipment used in drilling at such depths. As companies pushed the limits of drilling, shifting to new depths, drilling in deeper waters, the equipment and technology used in drilling to these kinds of environments are incredibly sophisticated, dangerous, and also invisible.
One engineer from the University of California, Berkeley, Robert Bea, said that deep sea drilling is a complex system. You have equipment and drills strung over a long piece of geography from the surface and terminating at 20,000 feet below sea level. Although at first look, gas and oil rigs looks invincible, it has many potential weak points.
Another reason why offshore drilling is very dangerous is that of the harsh environment that gives engineers a run for their money. Storms, ice and severe weather poses a big risk to the equipment and the functionality of the rig in general. Because it is in the middle of the sea, the distance from land makes it more dangerous and difficult for personnel to reach the platform in case of emergency.
Not enough living quarters is also a reason why living offshore is dangerous. But because of technology and advancement in architecture, offshore living quarters manufacturers have found ways to make the worker’s stay in the oil rig safe, enjoyable and bearable at the same time.
And the last reason why it is hazardous working in the oil or gas rig is the inexperience of the company as well as their workers when it comes to working with deep sea drilling equipment and working in these kinds of environment.
Most big oil companies like Chevron, Shell or Exxon are saying that they are making a lot of efforts to stop oil leaks. But, some of their efforts, failed because they can’t plug a hole at that depth. Because of that, they can’t prepare in advance in case there’s an oil leak in the site.
Plans and bans in drilling offshore
Chevron Canada started digging what is now the world’s deepest drilled offshore oil well, that reached a depth of at least one kilometer deeper compared to the well drilled by Deepwater Horizon. However, the operation has been on hold by Offshore Petroleum Board of Newfoundland until Chevron Canada can prove that it has taken enough precautions to prevent oil spills in their drilling site.
On March, U.S President Barack Obama announces the end of decades-old oil and gas ban drilling along the Atlantic coast all the way up to the northern part of Alaska. The lifting of the ban was to increase the United States’ oil production and increase their energy independence and reduce foreign oil imports. The U.S Atlantic coast holds 37 trillion cubic feet of gas and at least 4 billion barrels of oil, according to the U.S. Geological Survey
Part of what is happening in the Gulf of Mexico is that most oil companies drills at least a mile below sea level before they hit the bottom of the sea, and drills at least a mile again before they can hit liquid gold, commonly known as oil. With increased risks, comes an increase in operational costs.