The proposed new power plant by Holy refinery within the City of Bountiful has elicited opposition from the locals and the city council. Reflectively, the Utah medical fraternity has estimated that the proposed plant will cause more than 20 deaths annually. Besides, the local have issues with environmental pollution from air, water, visibility to noise. Since the proposed refinery will use dirty petroleum fuel to propel its pumps, the local are uncomfortable with the proposal due to fear of air pollution.
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Despite the fact that Petroleum fluids have become the backbone of modern economics and industrial development in Utah, the above issues have created real concerns. Crude oil and natural gases are environmentally friendly in their natural state. However, they are rarely used in their natural state. This makes it mandatory for the natural gas and crude oil to go through a refining and gas processing.
Emissions from the refining process contain products from the natural petroleum that are contaminated with synthetic chemicals making the total emissions harmful to the environment. Thus, this analytical treatise attempts to explicitly discuss the environmental and health consequences of locating the proposed oil refinery near the human settlement of Utah. Besides, the treatise identifies solutions to the identified issues and presents a comprehensive plan to revise them.
Problems of refining oil near Utah City
Effects on the environment
The sanitization of crude oil and processing of natural gas involves use of artificial chemicals and catalysts such as lead, chromium, glycol, amines among others. These synthetic chemicals contaminate the end products and are burnt along with the fuels to produce numerous lethal by-products in gaseous, liquid or solid forms.
The emission of such air pollutant that did not exist in nature causes environmental effects than can permanently dent the global ecosystem (Islam, Chhetri & Khan, 2010). The problem with the synthetic additives emerges from the fact that they are not compatible with the natural system. Therefore, they are not assimilated with biomasses in a way that would preserve natural order.
Currently, for every barrel of crude oil being produced, approximately 15% synthetic and /or engineered materials are added. These are highly toxic to the environment (Kumar, 1997). Islam, Chhetri and Khan (2010) opine that “Oil and its associated products are composed of complex molecule that when burned produce relatively high levels of carbon dioxide and air pollutants like sulfur dioxide (a key cause of acid rain) and nitrogen oxides (a key component of smog)” (Islam, Chhetri & Khan, 2010, p. 44).
The produced industrial CO2 is considered solely responsible for the current global warming and climate change problems that are experienced at Dhahran and other parts of the world. Therefore, “petroleum products and their use are one of largest source of toxic air emission which are harmful to the environment” (Islam, Chhetri & Khan, 2010, p. 45).
Thousands of tons of oil will be emitted into the natural environment in Utah City from various sources each year if the proposed project is implemented. In most instances, most of the pollutant oil originates from seeps on the ground and broken pipes. Unfortunately, the seepage directly affects human settlements due to the bad smell, clogging of soil, and poisoning plants. The largest source after natural seeps is the land based and storm water runoff.
This is oil that leaks into the streams, rivers and oceans. Such lead to water pollution which subsequently causes death of green plantation in the Utah area. Further, locating the refineries next to residential places will cause a lot of noise from the constantly operating machines. Such pollution will cause loads of noise distraction to the human settlement in the region (Taverne, 2008).
All machineries in use in any factory for manufacturing of goods, mineral mining or petroleum mining require frequent maintenance so as minimize breakdown of the machines during normal operations. Petroleum refinery involves a complex process which employs numerous heavy machineries.
Such have to be maintained so as to ensure smooth flow of work. Maintenance can take different forms such as preventive, reactive, predictive, and reliability testing. A manufacturing company can adopt one or all of the forms of maintenance (Islam, Chhetri & Khan, 2010). Further, factories also require cleaning up after a period of time. The interval of cleaning up period depends on the nature of output being manufactured.
These exercises are very costly to companies. They demand a lot money and idle time of such companies. Due to the economic and social cost implications, most companies often opt to clean up their factories after several years such as 2 to 5 years (Kumar, 1997). A lot of toxic wastes usually emerge from such clean ups and maintenance and are always discharged to the surrounding environment. This scenario is likely to pose a great risk to the population of Utah.
Besides, “the lands taken up by all the wells, pipelines, roads, processing plants and other facilities needed to remove oil from the ground and turn it into commercial products often called the foot print” (Kumar, 1997, p. 23). Approximately, this may occupy about 700,000 acres of land.
Further, the machineries used for the whole process, that is, from mining to processing of the crude oil till final products are stored are very costly. Therefore initiating an oil refinery requires a multi billion investment in land and water protection. The initiative is likely to be very costly to the City of Utah.
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Natural gases found in the natural gas reservoirs are complex mixtures of hundreds of different compounds. “A usual natural gas stream consists of a mixture of methane, ethane, propane, butane and other hydrocarbons, water vapors, oil and condensates, hydrogen sulfides, carbon dioxide, nitrogen, other gases and solid particles” (Islam, Chhetri & Khan, 2010).
The compound is a natural source that is not a threat to the environment. Gas processing is a multifaceted process involving separating the gases into desired components for different uses. The separation process leads to emission of harmful gases such as carbon monoxide, ozone, methane and sulfur dioxides in the region.
These gases are commonly known as greenhouse gases. They cause air pollution which will pose a great health risk to the residence of Utah. Further, emission of these poisonous gases into the environment will cause rise in temperatures (global warming) in Utah City. Therefore, the residence of Utah will not take pleasure in the natural temperatures because climate of that region will be distorted by gas emissions (Kumar, 1997).
Other than global warming, residences of Utah City will be exposed to dreadful health diseases resulting from emanation of poisonous gases such as hydrogen sulphide from the refinery. Contact with these gases may cause diseases such as cancer and diseases relating to respiratory system.
These diseases are known to be very costly to treat and may take several years before they get completely done away with in human body (Islam, Chhetri & Khan, 2010). Due to the cost implications of obtaining medication, many people may opt to live with the diseases awaiting death. The proposed petroleum processing industry in Utah is health hazardous and it will reduce life expectancy of the entire population (Kumar, 1997).
Solutions for refining oil within Utah City
Due to the identified environmental problems that will be created by the proposed oil refinery factory in Utah City, solutions have to be put forward to help mitigate future risks. Such solutions should be beneficial to both the proprietors and the residence.
According to Kumar (1997), sustainable living is an essential persistent purpose to achieve at least a better standard of living conditions. Actually, sustainability is a state of acquiring social, environmental, and economical expectations without compromising important aspects of life for future generation.
Indeed, sustainable living therefore, is expressed as a situation of living in an innate sustainable and appealing facility distinct of ecological, financial, and conscious features. Moreover, sustainable devise and sustainable progress are significant features in achieving sustainable living situation. Sustainable devise covers the progress of suitable technology. This is an inevitable requisite for sustainable living condition.
On the other hand, sustainable progress is the use of technological devices in creating a sustainable living environment. For example, agricultural commitments and constructional designs are common programs that are motivated by sustainable progress (Islam, Chhetri & Khan 2010). The proposed refinery should adopt modern designs and implementers to sign commitment treatise with the locals on carbon trade so as to minimize air pollution within Utah.
Moreover, adaptation of sociological approach in environmental impact assessment recommendations should be inclusive of an environmental committee that would clear the weighty issues surrounding technical and institutional assumptions in establishing the proposed oil refinery in Utah.
Through this, the stakeholders will reach a compromising but satisfactory decision that will be influenced by participatory decision process, rather than adopting either a protagonist or antagonist stance in this multimillion dollar project (Islam, Chhetri & Khan, 2010). Thus, a wider scrutiny will encompass scientific and democratic purposes and concerns of the locals.
As a result, the common ground that is likely to be fostered by the above committee would be the stimulus of free activities and proactive engagements for all the interest institutions, persons, and extra-institutional groups. After reviewing several decisions and judgment on different cases on oil refinery, sociological treatment would provide the most neutral ground for implementation of the proposed project (Islam, Chhetri & Khan 2010).
Although it is easy to assess the worth of the industrial and manufacturing sector at a global level, micro level analysis requires personalized approach which will indicate an imminent and forthcoming need for personnel who can function as safety engineers within the industrial parameters of the proposed refinery within Utah City.
Moreover, the government should consider changing location of the proposed plant by relocating it far away from human settlement or chose a place near the oceans or big water bodies. This may help reduce the direct effect of pollution on people. Besides, the government may be in a position to offer the factory enough space for expansion and better place to dispose of non toxic wastes far from Utah.
Other than changing location of the plant, the government of Utah City should consider producing other less harmful sources of energy such as solar and thermal energy. Solar and thermal sources are easy to produce, efficient, causes minimal pollution and impact less negatively on the environment and human race. Further, they require very minimal space for their generation (Islam, Chhetri & Khan 2010).
Despite the widespread environmental, economic and political consequence, the world’s reliance on petroleum is expected to grow. Advances in oil well technology have allowed extraction in the deep ocean beyond the continental shelf. Governments across the world heavily rely on income generated from export of petroleum and gases for their operations. Therefore, refinery of oil and production of gases is expected to continue immensely in the near future.
A nation which produces these products should come up with a plan of refinery that would not be detrimental to the environment and residence. Ideally, oil mines and refineries are habitually located away from human settlement. This is because of the negative impact of the pollutants to the population. Despite the economic gains from trading in oil, it is not proper to locate the proposed refiner at Utah City which is inhabited by human beings. The government should curtail erecting more refineries in human settlement.
As an alternative, it should consider investing in exploration of other sources of energy such as solar and thermal. In the process of generating revenue for the country, such projects should not have human settlement and environment at stake. Actually, it is a moment of optimism and enthusiasm when human perception aspire eco-movement. Moreover, global consciousness has migrated to a greener livable, cost-effective industrial location, and ecological friendly attitude.
Islam, M., Chhetri, A., & Khan, M. (2010). Sustainable oil refining and gas processing. Greening of Petroleum Operations, 23(2), 42-47
Kumar, S. (1997). Gas production engineering. The phase behavior fundamentals, 4(9), 21-24.
Taverne, B. (2008). Petroleum, industry and governments. The petroleum industry, 13(2), 14-25.