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Offshore Drilling’s Negative Environmental Influence Research Paper


Offshore drilling becomes a popular activity that occurs below the seabed. It should be stated that the main reason for offshore drilling is finding resources like gas and oil. In the vast majority of cases, this notion refers to drilling on the continental shelf. Although there are evident disadvantages of offshore drilling, it should be noted that it is a perfect option to become less dependent on the Eastern World and their oil extraction.

The implementation of offshore drilling will consequently lead to the improvement and stabilization of the global economy as the eastern giants of the oil import will not have so many rights to control the price of oil. In case, there will be an alternative; the prices are likely to decrease.

As a matter of fact, offshore drilling can create a lot of workplaces and positively affect the unemployment rate. However, despite all the stated above advantages, the negative impact of offshore drilling should also be taken into consideration. The issue regarding the environment and the adverse impact on it because of offshore drilling is the fundamental argument against this activity. The primary purpose of the paper is to provide the in-depth analysis of the negative implications that offshore drilling may bring along.

Environmental Effects

Although offshore drilling provides a number of benefits, it is worth stating that the activity can be characterized by an adverse impact that it has on the environment. The production of the hydrocarbons and the hazardous materials that are used during the process make offshore drilling a dangerous activity. The environment has already faced a number of challenges as the society made progress. It is no doubt that despite the humanity has already come a long way towards improvement, advance, and technological progress, the surrounding suffered dramatically.

During the last centuries, the society impacted the environment in an impressive way. However, nature reacted. Climate changes, the natural phenomenon, become more severe, and new diseases emerge. It is the way the environment shows that something should be done regarding the pollution as the human beings are destroying the planet caring only about the progress. In the pace towards prosperity and improvement, people have greater chances to lose the main, the home, the Earth. The technological advances should be used beneficially to protect and secure nature from the hazardous impact of the human activity. Offshore drilling is another challenge to the environment.

Offshore drilling seems to be a controversial issue. The environmental problems and aspects are the most discussed and argued in relation to the oil drilling. In addition, talking about offshore oil drilling, it should be stressed that in contrast to the oil drilling, the offshore one is performed under the water, and that is, viewed as even more dangerous and hazard. To get a better understanding of the level of the adverse impact of offshore drilling, the process of it should be examined. First and foremost, the accent should be laid on the fact that every time the oil is extracted from the seabed, the impressive amount of the hazardous and toxic chemicals comes from the ocean floor as well.

Seismic waves are the perfect tool that helps to find the oil or natural gas sources on the seabed. Although it is commonly used, one should keep in mind that the seismic waves are the reason for the whales’ disorientation. Moreover, they are harmful to the mammals. There are a lot of cases that prove such a negative effect of the seismic waves; however one of the most striking examples occurred in Madagascar when more than a hundred whales were beached.

The threat does not end with the oil extraction as the transportation is also a significant point that should be addressed. The canals that were supposed to transport the oil to across Louisiana caused erosion. The marshland was destructed, and the experts claim that there is the relation between the changes caused by the oil canals and damage made by Hurricane Katrina (Ismail et. al 21).

However, it is worth pointing out that people who support offshore drilling find reasonable arguments to defend the significance of the oil extraction. According to the supporters of the drilling, the level of technological progress allows facilitation and making the process of oil extraction safer. Although it is true, and the improvement in the sphere of innovations is evident, it is essential to specify that as long as the risk of the adverse impact is not reduced to the minimum, such activity should not be possible.

The healthy condition of oceans and seas is an integral part not only concerning the prosperity of the communities who are dependent on tourism but also to the health of every person across the globe as well. Nowadays there is a tendency to the increasing number of the offshore areas that are used for drilling. The fundamental reason for it is to reduce the dependence on the Eastern World. However, it should be highlighted that the achievement of this goal leads to damage of the oceans and shores.

The oil spills consequently lead to the destruction of the marine ecosystem and decrease the costs for the local business that rely on tourism or, for example, commerce fishing. The recreation industry is one of the dominant sources of revenue in a number of states. The drilling and pollution will decrease the number of tourists, and it will lead to the weakness of the local economy.

Offshore drilling puts the marine life in a threat. The risk of oil spills is increasing. Oil covers an ocean area with an incredible speed and is considered to be an adverse form of the pollution. According to the recent findings, oil spills negatively affect local economies that are dependant from fishing and tourists. The American coastline has lost approximately forty billion of dollars in commercial fishing and the revenues in the industry of recreation decreased on over fifty billion of dollars over the last year (Xu et al. 96).

However, the oil spills have an unfovarable effect on the environment as well. According to the reports of the National Academy of Sciences, the modern technologies can remove the oils pills only partially. The oil that was not removed damages the ocean ecosystem and marine life. Seabirds and fish suffer from the spills as their reproductive system is vulnerable. The recent studies proved that even the small amount of oil in the ocean can negatively influence the reproduction process of pink salmon.

Moreover, the drilling operations are the major source of the water pollution. The scientists claim that every drill produces “tens of thousands of gallons of waste drilling muds (materials used to lubricate drill bits and maintain pressure) and cuttings” (Greene 4). The mud produced after drilling is a source of the hazardous and toxic chemicals, namely cadmium and lead. The produced water contains radioactive chemicals that harm the ecosystem in an inauspicious way.

The topic is urgent and demands solution, and that is, a number of scientists turned their attention to the issue regarding the effectiveness of the domestic oil drilling. According to the findings, the popularity of the domestic offshore drilling will not put an end to the oil dependence. The United Stated aim to develop alternative sources of energy; however, it is worth highlighting that they view offshore drilling as a possible option that is perfect until the time the technologies are not improved.

Nonetheless, the vast majority of experts note that the goal of the government regarding the decrease in oil and gas prices due to the domestic offshore drilling is not likely to be ever achieved. Moreover, there will be no economic benefit. With the consideration of the above stated the question arises whether it is reasonable to harm the environment and suffer losses in the sphere of tourism and commerce fishing for something that will never bring any profit?

It seems essential to point out that the society is facing a significant issue, namely the global warming and air pollution. The question regarding global warming and air pollution should be considered in relation to the negative effect of offshore drilling. To get better involvement in the problem, the side effect of the global warming should be taken into consideration. The offshore activity influences the situation of the environment in an impressive way. The global warming is associated not only with the sea ice melting but the climate change and shifts as well. The global warming is influencing every region and country. The climate change consequently leads to the emerging of new diseases and the fact that they become more severe.

In fact, the President Obama is the first president who came to the Arctic Circle. The major reason for the visit was drawing attention towards the significant issue, namely the negative impact of the climate change. The place was chosen not accidently as Alaska can be considered as the state that is facing and experiencing the problem of global warming more than any other state in the United States (Trefry et al. 37).

According to the reports of the United States National Climate Assessment, the average temperature in Alaska increased by almost 3,5 degrees Fahrenheit during the last fifty years (Fraser 201). 2015 was a difficult year for the states as almost six million acres were burnt during this year. The state is considered to be highly dependent on oil and gas production. It is worth highlighting that drilling will lead to the climate disruption and will harm the wilderness of nature. The poor environmental care in Alaska will impact not only this state but the global situation in general. Paul Elkins and Christophe McGlade once stated:

Our results suggest that, globally, a third of oil reserves, half of gas reserves and over 80% of current coal reserves should remain unused from 2010 to 2050 in order to meet the target of 2 degrees Celsius. We show that development of resources in the Arctic and any increase in unconventional oil production are incommensurate with efforts to limit average global warming to 2 degrees Celsius (Brune para. 10).

The global warming is easy to prevent. All people have to do is stop the drilling activity in Alaska and offshore and contribute to the environmental protection programs. However, the actions of the government seem to be controversial. On the one hand, they aim to make a strategy on the innovations and development of the technologies that will save the surrounding. Withal the administration allows Shell Oil to continue the oil production in the Chukchi Sea (Abimbola, Faisal, and Nima 75). The president seems to ignore the fact that the oil spill close to the shore of Alaska will be an environmental disaster. The logic of the administration is understandable as they probably assessed the risks and decided to take it.

President Obama made an accent on the fact that “we are the first generation to feel the effect of climate change and the last generation who can do something about it” (Brune para. 7). Obama takes actions to protect the environment; he encourages the development of the Clean Power Plan (Brune para. 8). Nevertheless, it is vital to point out that the society is already in the deadlock. The main way out is not only changing the strategies towards the creation of the environmentally friendly society but effective actions as well.

The recent researches suggest that there are microbes that consume oil and use it as a driving force. These microbes are beneficial as they mitigate the adverse impact of oil spills. As a matter of fact, the BP oil spill of 2010 could be much worse in case there were no such microorganisms that use oil (Incardona et al. 303). It is the way nature reacts on the negative impact of human activity and tries to find protection. According to Chris Reddy, the biochemist, the microbes consume natural gas “the relatively small hydrocarbon molecules in natural gas are the easiest for microorganisms to eat. The rate and capacity is a mind-boggling testament to microbes” (Biello par. 2). The microbes did the impressive job they mitigated the severe consequences of the oil spill close to Mexico.

Scientists tried to eliminate oil slick by a variety of ways, namely tried to use human hair and chemical dispersants. However, these efforts contributed to the formation of a new problem, a huge and huge plume of oil at a depth of 1,100 meters. It is worth stating that extracting oil from the water surface is difficult, although theoretically feasible task, whereas extracting the oil out of the depths seems impossible. The experts claimed that this oil can remain in the water for a long time.

When the plume was discovered, the researchers made pessimistic predictions regarding the effect that such a huge amount of oil in the water column will have on fish, ecosystem, and the health of a human being.

In May, the water samples showed low oxygen level in the area of the plume. It was concluded that this is an evidence of breathing and active work of bacteria, which refines oil. At first, they were not taken seriously as according to the rate of oxygen concentration, their work was not fast enough.

In June, the head of the Environmental Department of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, funded by the US Department of Energy, Terry Hazen and colleagues took samples of water and re-discovered a large number of other, poorly studied bacteria from Oceanospirillales. These bacteria also eat oil – they cleave hydrocarbons, the source of the energy for these microbes. However, they need much less oxygen to live than originally expected. Therefore assessing bacterial refining rate made on the basis of changes in the concentration of oxygen was wrong. The work of the bacteria was underestimated.

To get better involved in the issue of the adverse impact of oil on the environment, the case of oil spill is essential to be taken into consideration. On March 24, 1989, the Captain of the tanker “Exxon Valdez” left the control over the ship without the supervision for a small amount of time. However, it was enough for the tanker to hit a reef and spill 10.8 million gallons of oil into the sea (Incardona et al. 305). This oil spill was not the largest in history, in terms of the amount of oil, but it cost over 2 billion of dollars to extract the oil from the water.

The oil spill from the “Exxon Valdez” tanker has changed the natural order of things in Prince William Sound in Alaska, and the environmental damage caused by the spill has not been fully assessed yet. The oil spill had a negative impact on a flock of dolphins and killer whales. 13 out of the 36 members flock were killed (Incardona et al. 305). Even ten years later, the flock had not reached the previous size. The population increased only by three dolphins.

The oil spill from the “Exxon Valdez” is the largest spill that has ever taken place in the United States, and it takes a thirty-fourth place among the largest oil spills around the world. However, in terms of damage caused to the environment, it is considered to be the most crucial oil spill in history. Oil contaminated over 1300 miles of the coast of Alaska. Out of 10.8 million gallons of oil spilled from a tanker, approximately half a million was collected by cleaning crews, 1.4 million gallons sank to the ocean floor, and 216,000 gallons were on the coast (Incardona et al. 306).

Although it was not the largest oil spill in the history, it should be stressed that this accident received a huge response. The reason is that oil contamination of one of the most beautiful and untouched by civilization places in the world is, in fact, glaring.

Environmental consequences of oil spills are difficult to evaluate in nature because oil pollution violates many natural processes and relationships that significantly alters the conditions of living of all living organisms. Oil is accumulated in the biomass. It rapidly covers the water surface with a dense layer of the oil slick that prevents the access to air and light.

US Environmental Protection Agency describes the effect of the oil spill in the following way. In 10 minutes, after the one ton of oil reached the water, the slick of 10 mm is formed. Over time, the slick thickness reduces to less than one mm, however, it increases in size. One ton of oil can cover an area up to 12 square km. Further changes of the slick occur because of wind, waves and weather. Typically, the slick drifts on the wind break up on smaller slicks. Strong winds and storms are accelerating the dispersion process.

International Petroleum Industry Environmental Conservation Association points out that the disaster of oil spills does not occur simultaneously with mass death of fish, reptiles, animals, and plants. However, with the consideration of the long-term impact the scientists came to the conclusion that oil influences the environment in an adverse way. Spills are most dangerous for the organisms living in the coastal zone.

Birds that spend most of their lives on the water are the most vulnerable to oil spills. External oil pollution destroys plumage and causes eye irritation. Oil spills from medium to large usually cause the death of over 5000 birds (Tran et al. 133). In addition, it affects the reproductive system of the birds. A small amount of oil may be sufficient for death during incubation.

If the accident occurred near the town, the poison effect increases dramatically, because the oil and oil products create a dangerous cocktail with hazardous products of human activity.

According to the International Bird Rescue Research Center, people learn how to save the birds. In 1971, the experts of this organization saved only 16% of birds, victims of the oil spill in the Gulf of San Francisco (Tran et al. 133). In 2005, they managed to save over 75%. According to the recent findings, it takes two people, 45 minutes, and 1.1 thousand liters of clean water to help to clean one (Tran et al. 133). Oil spills cause the death of marine mammals. Sea otters, polar bears, and seals are killed most often. Because of oil, their fur loses ability to retain heat and water.

There are possible risks relating to the finding the oil sources. To get better involved in the issue, some examples should be taken into account. In 1980ies, the companies invested over two billion of dollars in the Beaufort Sea (Trefry et al. 37). However, later they found out that there was no oil. According to the information provided by Arizona Geological Survey, oil drilling is an expensive activity. The price usually depends on the depth of the hole. The price varies between 500,000 of dollars to one million.

The risks associated with the oil exploration and finding new wells are high. The amount of money spent on the maintaining the work of the employees is impressively big. As a matter of fact, taking into consideration the risks and profits, it should be noted that there should be other options for stabilization of the oil and gas price. The dangerous activity harms the environment and, in addition, is not likely to solve the problem. Moreover, the economic profit is not evident. The issue demands further investigation and debates for the alternatives should be considered.

Governmental Regulations

The government aims to provide regulations and protect the environment. They have already tightened the regulations because of accidents of oil spills. Although the regulation seems reasonable, it can impact economics. To solve economic issues and to eliminate the need for offshore drilling, the government encourages the development of the innovative technologies that will consume less gasoline. The recent researches prove that it will beneficially affect not only the environment and reduce the air and water pollution but will also significantly cut the spending for the oil.

It is worth stating that the year of 2007 was a turning point in the history of the United States as the country began the way towards technological advances and innovations to reduce the dependence on oil (Butz 76). That year the Congress came to the conclusion that the improvement of fuel economy should become the dominant strategy and receive major focus and attention. The best option for the United States to be protected from the oil prices is the development of the cars that can consume lees amount of petrol (Chandrasekaran 53).

Such decision positively affects the situation on the job market, will reduce the dependence on the eastern countries, and will contribute to the minimization of the air pollution. The society has already harmed the environment in a way that is crucial for the surrounding. That is, it is a high time to protect the nature and become environmentally friendly. The development of the alternative sources of energy should be invented, and it will beneficially influence not only the surrounding but the economy, health, and prosperity of the countries as well.

The United States is the most important tool for creating oil companies’ policies that are directed not to meet the current demand for oil but to ensure the long-term prospects for its reliable production and to meet the economic interests of all the parties involved, namely companies, state, and federal authorities. To regulate oil drilling and stimulate the development of the “green” sector, the president of the United States proposed a new 10$ per gallon taxation program (Bastasch par. 3).

He stated that the customers are not likely to feel the difference in price; however, the gained money is essential for the improvement and invention of infrastructure programs that will be environmentally friendly. Nevertheless, experts claim that oil industry is expiring crisis now, and taxation on 30% will negatively affect oil companies as well as consumers (Bastasch par. 4).

Economic Effect

Oil is vital for all the countries with a developed industry. However, oil is hard to find, the extraction and transportation are expensive, moreover, is very complicated to eliminate the consequences of the oil spill. The United States import about 49% of total oil consumption and 51% is domestic oil. The main countries that export oil to the United States are Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, Mexico, Nigeria, Iraq, Norway, Angola and the United Kingdom. About 30% of imported US oil is Arab oil.

According to experts, the strategic oil reserves in the United States currently account for more than 700 million barrels, while commercial oil reserves – about 400 million barrels (“U.S. Energy Information Administration – EIA – Independent Statistics and Analysis” par. 1). According to recent findings, the United States produced almost 10 million of barrels of crude oil, 4 million barrels of noncrude petroleum, and 1 million barrels of biofuels every day (“U.S. Energy Information Administration – EIA – Independent Statistics and Analysis” par. 1). It should be noted that the United States export oil mostly to Canada that afterwards returns to America as a refined product.

There are a lot of cases of oil spills that affected not only the environment but killed people as well. Because of the explosion on the platform Deepwater Horizon on April 20, 2010, 11 people died in the Gulf of Mexico and over 3 million barrels of oil spilled. This was the largest accident in the history of the United States. In total, BP will pay over 7 million of dollars to people and companies to compensate the damage


In conclusion, it should be pointed out that offshore drilling is a dangerous human activity that leads to negative consequences, namely intense pollution of the environment. Despite all the advantages of offshore drilling (independence from the Eastern World, stabilization of the global economy, and fight with unemployment), it should be highlighted that the drawbacks should be taken into consideration as well. As a matter of fact, it is essential to note that offshore drilling creates new challenges for the environment.

Nature reacts to the human activity in climate changes that consequently lead to the fact that all the natural phenomena become severe and more adverse. The society should direct all the forces and attention towards dealing with the issue. Offshore drilling will make the condition of the environment even worse because of the unlimited spread of hydrocarbons. The alternative sources of energy should be improved and developed as this is the only option to reduce the dependence on the eastern countries and air and water pollution. The attention and main concern should be laid upon the improvement in the sphere of innovations and technologies.

There are a lot of arguments that prove that offshore activity does not worse all the drawbacks it will bring along. The society and the government should understand that offshore drilling will not necessarily lead to the oil and gas independence. Moreover, it causes a severe level of damage to the environment. In addition, it is expensive to start up and to maintain. There are a lot of risks associated with offshore drilling. I do not profess to be an expert regarding the subject, but I am strongly convinced that the society has a number of other alternatives to substitute the consumption of gas and oil. Such alternatives should receive the priority as the environmental concern should be the major focus in the modern world.

As a result, it is important to note that the consumption of oil and natural gas also affects the environment and public health in a significant way, on the local and global level as well. One of the main products of oil is gasoline, fuel for cars, which contributes to the pollution of the atmosphere. This consumption leads to crucial consequences on the global level, in the form of climate change and global warming. These facts make the oil drilling a very controversial issue that on the one hand provides with a needed energy for the machinery production, and on the other hand destroys the ecosystem and puts the environment and human life in a threat.

Works Cited

Abimbola, Majeed, Faisal Khan, and Nima Khakzad. “Dynamic Safety Risk Analysis of Offshore Drilling.” Journal of Loss Prevention in the Process Industries 30.1 (2014): 74-85. Print.

Bastasch, Michael. “‘Fracking Tax’: Obama Proposes $10 Tax On Every Barrel Of U.S. Oil.” The Daily Caller. 2016. Web.

Biello, David. “How Microbes Helped Clean BP’s Oil Spill.” Scientific American. 2015. Web.

Brune, Michael. “Arctic Reality: If We Want to Limit Global Warming We Cannot Drill for Oil in the Chukchi Sea.” Eco Watch. 2015. Web.

Butz, Stephen D. Energy and Agriculture: Science, Environment, and Solutions. Stamford: Sengage Learning, 2015. Print.

Chandrasekaran, Srinivasan. Health, Safety and Environmental Management in Offshore and Petroleum Engineering. Chichester: John Wiley & Sons, 2016. Print.

Fraser, Gail. “Impacts of Offshore Oil and Gas Development on Marine Wildlife Resources.” Peak Oil, Economic Growth, and Wildlife Conservation (2014): 191-217. Web.

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Ismail, Zubaidah, Keen Kong, Siti Othman, Kim Law, Shin Khoo, Zhi Ong, and Sharif Shirazi. “Evaluating Accidents in the Offshore Drilling of Petroleum: Regional Picture and Reducing Impact.” Measurement 51.1 (2014): 18-33. Print.

Incardona, John, Tanya Swarts, Richard Edmunds, Tiffany Linbo, Allisan Aquilina-Beck, Catherine Sloan, Luke Gardner, Barbara Block, and Nathaniel Scholz. “Exxon Valdez to Deepwater Horizon: Comparable Toxicity of Both Crude Oils to Fish Early Life Stages.” Aquatic Toxicology 142.3 (2013): 303-316. Web.

Sneddon, Anne, Kathryn Mearns, and Rhona Flin. “Stress, Fatigue, Situation Awareness and Safety in Offshore Drilling Crews.” Safety Science 56.1 (2013): 80-88. Print.

Tran, Tony, Aida Yazdanparast, and Eric Suess. “Effect of Oil Spill on Birds: A Graphical Assay of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill’s Impact on Birds.” Comput Stat Computational Statistics 29.1 (2013): 133-140. Web.

Trefry, John H., Kenneth H. Dunton, Robert P. Trocine, Susan V. Schonberg, Nathan D. Mctigue, Eric S. Hersh, and Thomas J. Mcdonald. “Chemical and Biological Assessment of Two Offshore Drilling Sites in the Alaskan Arctic.” Marine Environmental Research 86.1 (2013): 35-45. Print.

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Xu, Hong, Suqin Han, Xiaohui Bi, Zhijing Zhao, Lei Zhang, Wenjie Yang, Min Zhang, Jing Chen, Jianhui Wu, Yufen Zhang, and Yinchang Feng. “Atmospheric Metallic and Arsenic Pollution at an Offshore Drilling Platform in the Bo Sea: A Health Risk Assessment for the Workers.” Journal of Hazardous Materials 304.1 (2016): 93-102. Print.

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