What are the environmental responsibilities of oil and gas?

Does the oil and gas sector face an existential threat?

There is a natural inclination in the press and in political circles to paint the oil and gas sector as an enemy of the environment. Companies such as Exxon Mobil, BP, Adnoc and Saudi Aramco are all seen as the villain bringing about global climate change and the destruction of habitats.

From this position the oil and gas companies could easily be said to face an existential threat. All efforts, scientifically and politically, seem focused on finding alternative fuels, primarily renewables but also nuclear. However, the immense global energy requirements projected for the next 30 years suggest that no single solution is going to be enough to fulfil the needs of a growing population.

So, can the oil and gas sector sit comfortably? Can they believe that all the talk of carbon reduction and habitat protection will never outweigh the need to power our homes and drive our cars?

As with all good debates, the answer to these questions lie somewhere in the middle. It is unlikely that the environmental concerns related to oil and gas discovery, retrieval and processing will outweigh our need for energy. However, neither should the sector ignore its responsibilities to the future of the planet – or to the industry’s own existence.

Avoiding negative consequences

Consumers may recognise the necessity of oil and gas and hunger ever more for its production, but oil and gas companies need to acknowledge their role in reducing the negative consequences of exploration, retrieval and production processes.

Most of the impacts are due to inadequate maintenance of equipment or human error/ malevolence. Damage is caused by such calamities as oil spills, pipeline ruptures, explosions, ships sinking, fires, trucks crashing, and many more. If we considered the hazards of refining oil – and the threats from terrorism and sabotage – we would probably never sleep again.

This means one of the primary responsibilities of the oil and gas sector is an investment in equipment, training and security that negates these risks. A haphazard attitude results in negative press, negative consumer reaction and the potential to escalate existential threats to the sector. Oil and gas companies need to work with scientists, engineers and environmentalists to find solutions to these risks and make the sector eco-friendly.

Promoting positive impacts

However, it is not enough for oil and gas companies to accept responsibility for errors and to offer recompense when disasters occur. It is a publicity exercise at this point – and not an obvious commitment to the environment. Exxon may deserve some kudos for its proactive response to the Valdez crisis – but it is easy to see that this was essentially a PR exercise.

Yet, to be fair, the oil companies are investing billions into socially responsible programs across the globe. BP is leading the way in research into solar, wind and hydrogen power. Exxon Mobil have partnered with Stanford University on the Global Climate and Energy Project. Finally, many oil companies are investing in third world development programs – contributing to schools and other social institutions – as well as donating to charities that fund environmental protection and education.

Most interesting is QPECs message to oil companies. They recently declared the solution to any existential threat to the sector is a commitment to researching and finding the renewable solutions that would eventually replace fossil fuels. This is the have cake and eat it argument – that ultimate survival for the industry will come from being the solution to the inevitable environmental problems it creates.

As the industry continues to pursue its environmental responsibilities, here at Exiflow we will continue to support our customers with smart solutions and services such as our flow measurement computer which was created to accurately measure flow and produce easy to access data. To speak to us about how we can help you, call +44 (0)1243 554920 or contact us here.