Environmental issues of petroleum exploration and production: Introduction

Environmental Geosciences
By:  and 



Energy is the lifeblood of our planet Earth, an essential commod- ity that powers the expanding global economy. Starting in the 1950s, oil and natural gas became the main sources of primary energy for the increasing world population, and this dominance is expected to continue for several more decades (Edwards, 1997; Energy Information Administration (EIA), 2004). In the United States, petroleum production started in 1859 when Drake's well was drilled near Titusville, Pennsylvania, and oil and natural gas currently supply approximately 63% of the energy consumption; forecasts indicate that by 2025, their use will increase by about 40% to 28.3 million bbl/day and to 31.4 tcf/yr (EIA, 2004). The clear benefits of petroleum consumption, however, can carry major environmental impacts that may be regional or global in scale, in- cluding air pollution, global climate change, and oil spills. This vol- ume of Environmental Geosciences, covering environmental impacts of petroleum exploration and production, does not address these major impacts directly because air pollution and global warming are issues related primarily to petroleum and coal uses, and major oil spills are generally attributed to marine petroleum transportation, such as the Exxon Valdez's 1989 spill of 260,000 bbl of oil into Prince William Sound, Alaska. Exploration for and production of petroleum, however, have caused local detrimental impacts to soils, surface and groundwa- ters, and ecosystems in the 36 producing states in the United States (Richter and Kreitler, 1993; Kharaka and Hanor, 2003). These im- pacts arose primarily from the improper disposal of some of the large volumes (presently estimated at 20 billion bbl/yr total pro- duced) of saline water produced with oil and gas, from accidental hydrocarbon and produced-water releases, and from abandoned oil wells that were orphaned or not correctly plugged (Kharaka et al., 1995; Veil et al., 2004). Impacts and ground-surface disturbances, in the order of several acres per well, can also arise from related activities such as site clearance, construction of roads, tank bat- teries, brine pits and pipelines, and other land modifications nec- essary for the drilling of exploration and production wells and construction of production facilities. The cumulative impacts from these operations are high, because a total of about 3.5 million oil. 

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Environmental issues of petroleum exploration and production: Introduction
Series title Environmental Geosciences
Volume 12
Issue 2
Year Published 2005
Language English
Publisher AAPG
Contributing office(s) Toxic Substances Hydrology Program
Description 3 p.
First page 61
Last page 63
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