The oil industry probably isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when you think about sustainability and eco-friendly practices. However, as climate change becomes more and more pressing, and as we become aware of the ecological costs that come with the use of fossil fuels, the oil and gas industry finds itself at a crossroads. The demand for fossil fuels is still high, but these aren’t renewable resources, and the green revolution is gaining steam.
These are the main drivers of the increasing “greenification” in the oil and gas industry. Oil companies are switching gears to a more sustainable model that is supposed to help both the environment and ensure their long-term viability.
Accepting social responsibility
The oil and gas industry desperately needs to rehabilitate its image. The best way to do so and possibly start making real change is for the companies in this sector to increase their social responsibility and to show that they genuinely care about reducing their environmental impact.
Increased transparency would be a good start, as would honest attempts to undo the damage done instead of hiding behind poorly-written regulations and jurisdictional issues. Improving worker conditions and adopting solutions that would minimize ecological damage are all steps the industry simply must take in order to become more eco friendly.
Investing in the latest technologies
The most common way to reduce any industry’s carbon footprint is to develop solutions that will be more efficient, durable, and eco-friendly. Automation and artificial intelligence can significantly improve operational efficiency and contribute to long-term savings. A high level of automation can reduce workload and minimize human error. This leads to reduced waste and reduced incidence of mishaps like oil spills.
Additionally, advanced technologies can improve recycling methods, which opens up a lot of options for forward-thinking oil and gas companies.
Updating tools and machinery
Speaking of technology, updating existing infrastructure is definitely an important step in increasing the oil and gas industry’s efficiency and sustainability. The rollout of the latest high-efficiency oilfield equipment will improve output and reduce costs, increasing efficiency across the board.
The only thing that’s left is to implement it on a scale large enough to truly matter. Fortunately, modern logistic chains, while shaken by COVID-19, are still present and are robust enough to enable on-time delivery of required pieces of equipment anywhere in the world. This not only ensures reduced downtime but also limits the potential ecological damage in case of a malfunction that would cause it.
Improved data analysis
Without accurate information and data analysis, it’s impossible to develop improved equipment and processes that are necessary for increased sustainability. Recent research shows that offshore oil platforms are operating at 77% of their potential capacity.
Considering the sheer scale of the oil and gas industry, this leads to staggering unfulfilled earnings potential. The shortfall is estimated at 10 million barrels per day. It’s obvious there’s a lot of room for improvement, and integrating smart analytics systems is necessary for companies to survive in the coming years. Modern software can identify wasted potential and reduce production bottlenecks, accidents, and ecological damage.
Environmental management systems
Environmentally sound industrial development is a key step in making any industry eco friendly. Governments and companies must work together in order to create programs that will analyze the impact of the industry on the environment. This includes changes in soil and water quality, ecosystem disruption, and air pollution.
Environmental management systems can prepare contingencies for emergencies and set up effective cleaning methods well in advance. They also need to ensure that O&G companies don’t violate any pertinent regulations before, during, and after (the cleanup stage) their projects. In case such violations occur, the systems need to have procedures that will appropriately penalize the company and/or secure the appropriate response to any environmental damage.
Greater focus on the renewables
Yes, even the O&G industry can benefit from renewable energy sources. By reducing their dependence on fossil fuels and employing sustainable practices, companies operating in this industry can reduce their carbon footprint and become more eco-friendly in the long term. The obvious way to do this is to rely on wind and solar energy to power resource extraction and production. This reduces the overall environmental impact of fossil fuels and results in a more sustainable industry.
Using new recycling techniques to reduce the number of natural resources used in extraction and production can greatly reduce the industry’s carbon footprint. Recycling used oil and converting it to diesel fuel allows energy companies to save resources and reduce the amount of work needed in order to run their operations. What’s more, this is more efficient than standard methods of oil disposal.
Increasing water recycling efficiency reduces the amount of freshwater required for regular operations. By using sulfate and iron-reducing bacteria instead of toxic chemicals, oil and gas companies can maintain high production levels without further damaging the environment.
While it’s impossible for the oil and gas industry to actually become environmentally friendly, that doesn’t mean it can’t ameliorate its impact on the environment by implementing sustainable changes in its operations. After all, every little bit counts, and since the whole industry can’t just disappear, gradual change helps us buy time until we can completely phase out fossil fuels and go fully green.