The Petroleum Industry as It Affects Marine And Estuarine Ecology
- Lyle S. St. Amant (Louisiana Wild Life and Fisheries Commission)
- Document ID
- Society of Petroleum Engineers
- Journal of Petroleum Technology
- Publication Date
- April 1972
- Document Type
- Journal Paper
- 385 - 392
- 1972. Society of Petroleum Engineers
- 4.2 Pipelines, Flowlines and Risers, 1.6.9 Coring, Fishing, 4.3.4 Scale, 4.1.5 Processing Equipment, 6.1.5 Human Resources, Competence and Training, 1.6 Drilling Operations, 6.5.5 Oil and Chemical Spills
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Accidental and short-term oil pollution, while troublesome, expensive, and locally damaging, appears not to have a permanent effect on the ecosystem. On the other hand, in unstable marshlands and shallow-water embayments, industrial activity such as mineral exploration and production can be quite destructive.
Oil production, particularly in its relationship to marine and estuarine ecological problems, has become the center of considerable debate in recent years. Much of this debate developed from and centered on the effects of certain accidental oil spills of considerable size but of generally short duration. These accidents, starting with the Torrey Canyon, on incident in England and more recently involving the Shell Oil Co. platform fire in Louisiana, have garnered most of the attention of the press, the public, and the political leaders of the country. public, and the political leaders of the country. Unfortunately such accidents do not represent the true impact of the petroleum industry on the basic marine ecological conditions, nor is there much evidence after the hue and cry that they actually affected the environment to any great degree or permanently.
There are, however, some aspects of the effects of petroleum operation on the basic ecology of estuaries and of the utilization of marine areas by fishing interests that should be discussed and clarified. In the first place the general public and press too frequently lump all problems associated with the petroleum industry as oil pollution when as a matter of fact the pollution part of the problem, since it is reversible and pollution part of the problem, since it is reversible and controllable, is perhaps the least damaging or significant from an ecological standpoint, While it is quite true that there is much that is unknown about the effects of oil pollution on marine fauna and flora, examination of the pollution on marine fauna and flora, examination of the gross effects of pollution as well as long-term effects of oil on marine areas in Louisiana would lead to the conclusion that the toxic effects of oil are not nearly so great as is implied by the general consensus. This observation, however, should not be construed to mean that oil has no effect on the ecosystem. On numerous occasions it has been pointed out that the accumulative and sublethal effects of oil are unknown and may be detrimental. Furthermore, the findings of Blumer et al., indicating rather severe mortalities from oil, remain to be evaluated. The point is that the press and the public, in their general condemnation of petroleum industry activities as being totally detrimental and as falling under a single label of oil pollution, have oversimplified the relationship between the various petroleum activities and the environment. This position has resulted in unnecessary confusion, unwarranted and overrestrictive regulations in some areas, and a total ignorance of and failure to regulate some important activities in other areas.
Ecological Damage vs Poor Resource Management
Before attempting to describe the various impacts of petroleum industry activities on the environment, it petroleum industry activities on the environment, it might be well to define what constitutes environmental or ecological damage or change and to establish what may be better defined as poor or improper resource and environmental management. Most lay environmentalists and some professional ecologists confuse the many different types of unwanted effects that either natural or man-made events may have on the ecosystem.
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