Offshore Oil Drilling and it's Affects on the Environment

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In 2010 the BP-operated Macondo prospect in the Gulf of Mexico exploded, killing 11 people and spilling 4.9 million barrels of oil into the Gulf. Since this incident, the whole industry of offshore oil drilling has been judged and closely watched. There are many effects on the environment and the economy, as well as on the everyday people involved with offshore oil drilling. In the following essay, many of these effects will be discussed.

Every year oil rigs spill over 90,000 metric tons of drilling fluids and metal cuttings into our oceans, thus polluting them. The pollution caused by these oil rigs is destroying natural habitats, while also killing thousands of them. As of result of the pollution levels in the Earth's oceans being so high, the pH levels in the water has changed and lead to acidification. Scientist have estimated that by the end of this century, the Earth's waters could be nearly 150% more acidic than they are currently. Oil rigs that are located on or near ocean reefs - the ones that are spilling these toxic metal cuttings and drilling fluids into the oceans - are not just killing, but are also destroying whole reef ecosystems as a result of these spills. After these ecosystems are destroyed it can take years to restore them back to their original quality, but on some occasions they never.

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'Rigs to Reefs' is a program run by the US government that is trying to help deal with the destruction of habitats caused by offshore oil rigs. To decommission an offshore oil rig that is no longer in use it costs more than $800,000 to remove, transfer and scrap the oil rig on shore. Decommissioning an oil rig means taking away what could have become a habitat over the time it was in operation. When some of these oil rigs are removed thousands of marine animals lose their home and it causes great damage to the environment around them. The Rigs to Reefs program allows for some of these oil rigs to be turned into a permanent habitat for marine animals. The upper 85 feet of the oil rigs are either towed, toppled in place or removed, leaving the lower portion of the rig to become or remain home to these animals. By turning these oil rigs into reefs the marine life in the area can once again grow, and potentially return back to its original quality and health.

Not all of the effects on the environment due to offshore oil rigs are bad. More than half of the oceans oil pollutants is natural oil seepage, which pushes methane gas into the air and creates oil slicks on the water's surface that overall has a negative effect on the surrounding marine life. Oil drilling helps to reduce the pressure of underground oil reservoirs, which reduces the amount of hydrocarbon seepage and the amount of methane gas in the atmosphere. Scientist theorize that increased drilling operations around the world could continue to benefit the marine and atmospheric conditions. By increasing drilling activities in areas that have high-pressure underground reservoirs, the marine population would increase, resulting in a better marine environment.

It is a known fact that everyday consumers who buy fuel want lower prices, however, this has always seemed unachievable. Offshore oil drilling allows for these prices to be lower, which will play a significant role in the economic growth of the country as a whole. Oil import will increase and consequently, it affects the overall country’s income. If offshore oil drilling continues at the rate at which it is currently at, the price of fuel will have dropped by 3 cents a gallon by 2030. If fuel prices continue to decrease Ameriprise estimates that every 10-cent change in average gasoline prices over the course of a year equates to about $14 billion in consumer savings (CNN). Consumers saving $14 billion per year would allow for that money to be potentially reinvested into the business.

A positive effect is that having better oil and gas prices reduces the cost of goods and services throughout the country, boosting the economy of small businesses and making it easier for consumers to save money. One of the most cost-effective and direct methods of recovering crude oil is oil rigs and offshore drilling. As offshore drilling is one of the most cost-effective ways to access oil, companies are saving millions of dollars, that is now being reinvested into our economy in the form of sales, and upkeep of these oil rigs.

Offshore oil drilling is a risky, yet profitable business. If the oil rigs are well controlled and up kept, industries will skyrocket and become incredibly profitable. If not, companies and industries lose billions of dollars and become at great risk of their company going bankrupt. In 2010 when the BP-operated Macondo Prospect in the Gulf of Mexico exploded, The Gulf of Mexico’s coastal tourism industry lost about $22.7 billion, and their commercial fishing industry lost about $2487 million. Oil drilling has in the past destroyed industries and company’s names, which overall affected everyday people. After the Deepwater Horizon incident, hundreds of local fishermen and fisheries lost thousands of dollars because the water and fish in the Gulf of Mexico were no longer safe for consumption.

The construction of Offshore Oil rigs has created thousands of jobs for people, however, it is a highly dangerous job. Workers on oil rigs can work for 24-48 hours straight on some day(s), which is a long time to not sleep. During these hours they are expected to operate heavy machinery. If the operator of a heavy machine falls asleep, or their reaction time is too slow, a person or even a group of people could be seriously injured and even killed. Workers on these oil rigs are constantly at risk of injury whether it be serious or minor. Some of the many minor injuries oil rig workers suffer are bruises, muscle pain, and fatigue, which in reality aren’t serious on their own but paired with constant work on top of the injury, little sleep, and lifting or moving around equipment can make these minor injuries major very quickly. Offshore oil rig workers are at even greater risk of serious injuries resulting from burns, falls, exposure to chemicals and even explosions. These serious injuries take the lives of many each year and leave some unable to work. Every year an average of 108 offshore oil rig workers die, on the rig alone. Over a 10 year period, nearly 1,100 workers die, making it one of the riskiest jobs.

The single, standard size, offshore oil rig employes over 1,000 employees, providing a stable income for many families. The construction of offshore oil rigs has created thousands of jobs for people with a variety of work skills. Just in the Gulf of Mexico, the offshore oil industry employs roughly 50,000 workers who work both indirectly and directly with the company's oil rigs.

As stated in the point above about pollution, 90,000 metric tons of drilling fluids and metal cuttings are spilled into the water each year. If the number of pollutants that are being spilled into our oceans every year continues at this rate, Global warming will begin affecting people more and more. As the world heats up, temperatures will rise all around the world, making some places inhabitable. Either way, humans will suffer, whether it be directly or indirectly. If temperatures rise our food sources will run out, and heat waves will become more severe and frequent. The risk of death and injury will increase because of offshore oil rigs polluting our oceans.

As you can see offshore oil drilling has greatly impacted the world in both positive and negative ways. With a closer look into offshore oil drilling better, more accurate accusations can be made about its effects on everything around them.

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Offshore Oil Drilling and it’s Affects on the Environment. (2022, September 15). Edubirdie. Retrieved July 15, 2024, from
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