Environmental Hazards as a Consequence Term Paper

Pages: 30 (9344 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: ≈ 72  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Energy

Data gathering and Analysis

Overview of the issues of environmental protection

In recent times, the need to protect and save the environment is growing. Most scientists and climatologists working with data related to the climate and the weather believe that the earth's temperature is rising. This is often attributed to the depletion of the ozone layer and the increase in the greenhouse gases. Temperature-rises have resulted in rising sea levels. Many islands in the Pacific Ocean are in danger of being submerged. These changes will influence the lives of the average citizen. More money will have to be spent on healthcare and preventive medicine. Health Services will be burdened due to rising pollution levels, depletion of the ozone layer and contamination of fresh water, the oceans and the land. There will also be fewer resources and commodities available. The divide between the haves and have-nots will also increase. Great inventions in science and technology have been achieved due to man's constant desire to improve his living conditions and his quality of life.

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The earth is also evolving and undergoing changes. These changes are subtle and not noticeable over typical time spans. The movement of glaciers, for example, occurs at a few centimeters or less in a day. Records show that glaciers, which were almost intact for hundreds of years, are retreating faster since the mid-1800s. This rate of retreat is accelerating with each passing year (Wright, 2002). Darwinian Theory states that plants and animals undergo changes and mutations -- we are constantly evolving. Man's influence has, however, impacted the habitats and the living condition of many plants and animals. Many times, the extinction of a species is attributed to the effects of man's encroachment on the habitats of these lower forms of life. The clearing of forests, contamination of the rivers and lakes due to the run off of fertilizers used in agriculture and uncontrolled hunting for food and sport.

Term Paper on Environmental Hazards as a Consequence Assignment

It is often assumed that to create new jobs, the environment will have to suffer. However, a study in Louisiana showed that environmentalist, industrialist and the government can work together to keep the environment safe from harm (DanishEPA, 2001) In many cases, industry also has a reason to develop and grow in an area if the right facilities to sustain growth are available. One of the greatest challenges in the present times is the ability to meet human needs without threatening the integrity of ecosystems, which are the basis of human survival. Environmental protection and species conservation are important issues if humans have to survive.

It is predicted that the total oil reserve available today is between 1,800 to 2,200 billion barrels. Approximately 900 billion barrels have already been consumed to this point. Using Hubbert's assumptions, global production will peak in next few years. (Deffeyes, 2001) Most of the oil will be extracted by 2060 and the world will have to look for new options to generate energy. These worldwide (petroleum) assumptions are based on the facts that after 1971, no new reserves of crude oil have been found. The necessity for drilling potential deposits in Alaska is struggling due to political problems. The oil meshed with sand on the shores of Canada also needs more research in extraction. New oil deposits discovered have also proved to be difficult to drill and commercially exploited without investing in new technology and refining methods. This in turn has forced explorations in regions where the ecology could be seriously affected by the exploration process.

The amount of petroleum resources a person consumes and the damages done in the process of manufacturing and obtaining these resources are key considerations in the analysis of population explosion. The U.S., for example, has a lower population than either China or India but uses more petroleum resources due to the higher purchasing capabilities and options available to its residents. In addition, other support systems required to maintain the higher quality of life have also to be factored into the resource utilization. (EIA.DOE.gov, 2002)

This study identifies the following aspect of the petroleum industry for environmental hazards

The drilling and production sector for crude oil

The transporting and piping of the products to the refineries

Refining and processing of the crude oil into marketable products

Warehousing of petroleum products -- finished and semi-finished

Transportation of finished products to the seller

Petroleum reserves and extraction of crude oil

The total oil reserve estimates have always been debated. Whether the true extents of all the oil reserves have been identified in the world and the resources that would be required to extract the oil exist are topics for continued discussions. The majority of the current reserves are located in politically unstable countries -- making the well and drilling rigs susceptible to terrorist attacks. As seen during the Gulf war, many of the oil fields were set ablaze and millions of barrels of crude oil were released into the river and the ocean. The estimated world oil resources (extracted from a more comprehensive table is as shown below. As seen from the table above roughly two thirds of all the oil reserves are in areas where political and social instability is high (many of the countries in the OPEC are located in and around the Middle East)

Region and Country

Proved Reserves

Reserve Growth




Extract) Note: Resources include crude oil (including lease condensates) and natural gas plant liquids.

Source: U.S. Geological Survey, World Petroleum Assessment 2000, web site http://greenwood.cr.usgs.gov/energy/WorldEnergy/DDS-60.

The equipment and expertise required are constantly becoming more sophisticated. These advances are primarily applied in locating and identifying oil reserves. Often, the oil reserves are located in inhospitable area of severe climatic conditions. For example, the Middle East is a desert; the oil reserves in Russia, which are located in regions of artic climatic conditions. The current political wrangling in the United States is over achieving oil sufficiency for decades by drilling in the Arctic Tundra. The drilling rigs, platforms and cranes are also subject to severe climatic stain and stress. In addition, crude oil, when drilled, also contains highly corrosive compounds such as sulfur, nitrogen, and heavy metals. (Vincent, 2002)

The world is constantly looking for new oil reserves. New technology and innovations in the petroleum industry has opened the industry to a whole new range of oil deposits. For example, the "tar sands" of Alberta, Canada has moved Canada from the 20th ranking country in oil reserves to second. The difficulty of extracting the oil will however hamper the production operations for a long time. (Lavelle, 2003) Environmental concerns and cost of operations have hampered production processes in the newly discovered oil fields. The infrastructure, such as, pipeline, holding tanks and transportation modes are also difficult to set up.

Oil exploration and distribution channels can cost billions of dollars to develop for an environment friendly process to be implemented. The main marine pollution as a result of the oil industry occurs as a result of waste from land-based sources such as refineries, river run offs and ground water contamination and from the transportation activities of the crude oil and refined products being undertaken. (Associated-Press and Reuters, 2001) The trepidation that incidents such as this could occur more often has many environmentalist and lobbyist working hard to prevent "unsafe" and "unreliable drilling operations all over the world.

Refining of crude petroleum

Crude oil is not used in its pure form and has to be distilled to obtain the more commonly used petroleum products. The initial refinery processes designed were simple. The current refinery process is complex. A simplified version of this process is shown below. The refining process is a continuous manufacturing process; and, as a rule, refineries operate 24/7, 365 days of the year. The only time a process is shut down is when the system and the equipment require maintenance or repairs.

The heavier gas oils are less preferred when compared to the lighter oil that is distilled at lower temperatures. The crude oil is first separated into basic "fractions" that are later further distilled to obtain a wide rage of products within the basic fraction.

Different fractions distill at different temperatures in the distillation column and are classified as follows:

Lighter products -- liquid petroleum gases (LPG), naphtha and straight run gasoline

Middle distillates -- jet fuel, kerosene, home heating oil and diesel fuel

Heaviest products (residuum or residual fuel oil)

The first lighter products have the most demand in the consumer market. The technology to obtain lighter fuels from the heavy distillates has been in use for a long time. Adding a catalyst, treating the heavy oil to high temperatures or changing molecularities of the heavy residue is often used to obtain as much of the lighter fuels as possible from the residue. Refineries, realizing the higher demand for the lighter fuels, constantly mix and match the processes to maximize the extraction of the most profitable component of the crude oil.

All the crude oil used in the refining process is not… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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