Oil and Global Warming
No issue has divided the general public quite like climate change. Many dismiss notions of “global warming” and the idea that human-driven activity can impact weather on a global scale. Despite the debate surrounding its origins, climate change is occurring, and does affect many industries. The oil and gas industries, with outdoor rigs and nation-wide infrastructure, are particularly exposed to federal and international regulation.
Here, we’ll give an over how climate change will affect drilling operations, and what can be done to reduce the impact.
A Close Relationship
According to the Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change (IIGCC), energy-related activities contribute to about 70% of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. About 60% of those energy-related emissions are a result of oil and gas industry activities, mainly attributable to the dependence on fossil fuel production. Complicating matters is the fact that a majority of GHG emissions occur later in the fuel lifecycle, and by that point are out of the hands of oil and gas companies. However, about half of the industry’s value lies in untapped reserves, or future production, thus creating a discord in company priorities.
Climate change has already impacted our industry in the form of government regulations. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the United States has put in place plans to reduce GHG emissions and move the nation toward a cleaner power policy. This has forced drilling companies to develop new technologies and practices that comply with these rules. Government regulations aside, climate change will still impact future industry practices.
Impact on Rigs
International Business Times explains that increasing temperatures means the number of days above 95 degrees Fahrenheit will increase from the past 30-year average of 39 days to 60 days by mid-century. By 2100, that number is expected to grow to 114 days. The increase in harsh conditions might impact production, as consistent exposure could affect worker safety.
Impact on Infrastructure
Scorching conditions aren’t the only changes rigs will have to ensure. Rising sea levels mean that the Gulf Coast will see its shoreline disappear by as much as two feet by mid-century. The rest of the Southeast will likely see higher sea levels, and will also see intensifying hurricanes. The Southeast and Gulf is home to many of the nation’s pipelines; intensifying flooding and winds could result in infrastructure damage and severely disrupt oil distribution.
Transportation impacts aren’t limited to the continental United States. Alaska’s oil transportation system relies on frozen roads. However, the state’s average temperature is expected to increase between 7.6 and 16 degrees Fahrenheit by 2100, meaning fewer ice roads and shorter transportation seasons.
What’s Being Done
Despite the significant implications of climate change, oil and gas companies are taking steps forward to reduce their contributions to climate change. Some of these include:
Gas and oil industries are in the spotlight in the battle over climate change. GHG emissions will significantly impact their operations over the next decade. Companies have acknowledged the threat, and have started making adjustments in their operations and priorities. However, the need for the industry to work with governments to develop comprehensive plans is more important than ever. After all, climate change is playing the long-term, and what we do now will influence its final move a century from now.