Oil Industry Development’s Challenges

While challenges in other countries, especially in the Third World, are politicians, speculation and money, American oil companies must face in their homeland challenges that can be even harder to handle. These are mainly what oil businessmen call in private the “green pain in the ass”. Indeed, environment advocacy and defense groups are nowadays really active in preventing development of oil drilling projects at home when these projects are to be promoted in protected natural areas such as Alaska. This State has been the target of greedy oil companies for its huge oil reserves, eventhough difficult to exploit given the polar climate and the ice. Such planned developments have encountered a huge opposition from public opinion which is promoted by groups such as Greenpeace. And for fact, this opposition can be justified : on the twenty-forth of March nineteen eighty-nine, a huge oil tanker carrying tens of millions of oil liters, the “Exxon Valdez”, took the sea from an oil terminal in Alaska. In order to avoid icebergs, the ship went out of the navigation trackways then failing to return back it struck Bligh Reef spilling as such 40.9 million liters of crude oil into the sea at Prince William Sound (Alaska, USA). According to Sarah Graham of the popular-science magazine “Scientific American”, the oil spill killed between 250,000 and 500,000 seabirds, more than 1,000 otters, 300 harbor seals, 250 bald eagles and 22 orcas as well as destroying billions of salmon and herring eggs. Given no choice for the cleaning process, the authorities had to use high-pressure hot water and this resulted in the destruction of micro-organisms on the shoreline, organisms which were the basis of the ecosystem’s food chain such as planktons etc. Today oil companies tend to take it carefully when it comes to Polar oilfields given the vigorous skepticism of public opinion and they insist on the environmental security aspect o’too seriously like did British Petroleum when it wanted to develop its BP Amoco Northstar project but the harsh climatic conditions made skepticism even tougher as the oil drilling and exploitation technologies used nowadays have never been tested under extreme glacial climatic conditions before and environment defense groups fear that if an oil spill occurs from the offshore drilling site itself it would be extremely difficult, if not impossible due to overwhelmingly high cost operations, to conduct a efficient cleaning process. This led those defense groups to take action and filed lawsuit against British Petroleum in the Alaska State as well as in Federal US Courts to stop the project. On the other, they established as well live opposition by setting up a camp, “ Ice Camp Sirius”, one mile off the Northstar building site.

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