Pollution By Oil Exploration

The world is now moving towards green and renewable energy. Many countries are trying to put a stop to fossil fuel extraction. Despite having lots of harmful effects on the environment and human welfare, oil and gas extraction projects are getting clearance in India.

The proposed onshore oil and natural gas extraction project by Vedanta industries involves drilling 35 hydrocarbon wells in 4 mandals of Krishna district. Around 35 villages will be affected by this project

Fertile lands to Contaminated lands

Krishna delta has some of the largest and highly fertile lands in India. These lands are very precious and valuable for farmers. Agriculture is the most common occupation in the Krishna district. According to 2001
census, 40.07 percent of the total working population are engaged in agriculture.

But now, drilling activities are going to take over these farmlands. 9 hectares (22.25 acres approx) of farmland is hired for each well pad. A total of 144.93 km2 area is required for this project. Farmlands are also used for making roads to transport oil and gas from wells. The land gets contaminated from spillage of fuels, construction chemicals, and concrete during transportation. Wastes like drilling mud, drill cuttings, waste/used oil will affect the soil’s nature.

Oil spills will affect the porosity and pH levels of soil. Consequently impeding the growth of crops, making these lands unfit for farming. Tonnes of hazardous waste is generated during the drilling and production phase. Any contamination of land will end up polluting water bodies too. Site clearance, stripping of topsoil, road development, and pipeline construction will result in soil erosion.

Collection, storage, and disposal of hazardous wastes and oil wastes have to be handled with proper care. Proper spill management plans must be prepared. If the preventive measures are not followed properly, these farmlands will deteriorate.

Photo by Patrick Hendry on Unsplash

Water bodies and groundwater

We all know water is crucial for the survival of humans as well as animals and plants. While people are suffering without clean water in some regions, oil drilling needs a tremendous amount of water every day.

Water is required for the preparation of drilling mud, domestic use, and injecting water. Injecting water alone needs 1000m³/ day. And other activities require 50m³/day/ well. This water is drawn from the bore wells nearby causing groundwater depletion. The compaction of working areas for setting up heavy machinery and equipment leads to increased runoff, therefore affecting groundwater recharge.

The water generated from wells during the extraction of oil and gas is called produced water. Produced water generated from a well pad can cause severe pollution to water bodies if disposed of untreated. This produced water is generally injected into deep injection wells. Studies showed that disposal of waste and produced water by oil industries in injection wells caused seismic activity. These are artificial earthquakes caused by humans. Studies showed that produced water contains extreme levels of radioactivity.

The hydrofracture (fracking) method is used in this project for the extraction of oil and natural gases. In the fracking process, fracking fluid is made by mixing enormous amounts of water with various toxic chemical compounds. It is then combined with heavy metals and radioactive
elements that naturally present in shale making the fracking fluid more hazardous. Fracking fluid pollutes both groundwater and surface water. Fracking is banned in many countries like France, Germany, The Netherlands, and in some states of America.

Aerial shot of an oil rig in Texas, USA. redwingaerials.com

No more clean Air

Oil and gas drilling is one of the largest sources of air pollution. Greenhouse gases are emitted in every step of oil and gas extraction, from drilling to distribution and they’re all fueling global warming. The health and welfare of people and wildlife are at stake due to these effluents. Dust emissions from drilling, construction, earthworks, and trenching will increase the particulate matter (PM) in the air. Continues Flaring of hydrocarbons and operation of gas engines release NOx and CO. Vehicular emission and operation of Diesel Generator sets emits oxides of sulfur and nitrogen. Drilling, processing of oil and gas releases a lot of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs). Voc’s consists of carcinogenic chemicals (benzene, ethylbenzene, etc.,). The fracking method releases a tremendous amount of methane into the atmosphere. Methane causes 21 times more global warming than CO2.


Life in Oil drilling areas

Continuous transportation of oil and gas through trucks, drilling operations, and Diesel generator sets will cause sound pollution. This will disturb the daily lives of people and wildlife. All this air, water, and land pollution will provoke health problems in people living nearby. Studies showed that babies born near oil and gas wells are more likely to have Congenital Heart problems and low birth weight.

Any accident will result in severe damage to lives and livelihood, like the most recent one, the Baghjan oil field fire in Assam, which took almost 7 months to douse the fire in the oil well. Effluents from oil well blowout, contaminated the land, the water bodies, and forced thousands of people in nearby villages to evacuate. Offshore oil and gas drilling affects air, water, land, and wildlife as a whole. It has a disastrous impact on the environment.

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