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Editor’s Comment: Environmental issues

by Martin Menachery on Aug 23, 2017

Martin Menachery, editor, Refining & Petrochemicals Middle East.
Martin Menachery, editor, Refining & Petrochemicals Middle East.

Petroleum is refined and used to manufacture gasoline and petrochemicals. Petroleum refining creates air pollution. Transforming petroleum into petrochemicals releases toxins into the atmosphere that are dangerous for the health of humans and ecosystems. Burning gasoline releases CO2. Although oil does not produce the same amount of CO2 that coal burning does, it still contributes greenhouse gases to the atmosphere and increases global warming.

Another important environmental issue related to the petroleum industry is the oil spills, which cause great environmental damage. Large oil spills sometimes occur during drilling, transport and use, which of course impact the surrounding environment. But these spills are not the only risk.

Large oil spills with catastrophic environmental effects – such as the Exxon Valdez in Alaska on 24 March 1989, spilling 260,000 barrels, or the BP Deepwater Horizon in the Gulf of Mexico on 20 April 2010, spilling 4.9 million barrels – get extensive media coverage, and lead to possible corrective measures.

But most of the oil spilled into the ecosystem is actually from oil that leaks from cars, airplanes and boats, as well as through illegal dumping. These get unnoticed, and there are no corrective measures taken. Collectively, everyday these unnoticed oil spills around the world make huge contamination to the sea and land.

Due to the nature of the activities involved in the downstream sector, which produce high risks, companies work continuously to reduce the adverse impact on the environment. The sustainability issues that face the world today prompt the refining and petrochemical manufacturing companies to seriously consider how they will address environment protection in the future.

Interestingly, global warming is opening doors for the development of new types of fuels, with zero or very little impact on the environment, thereby creating a vision for a greener tomorrow.


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