With all of the reported leaks that continue to be printed in the news, it would seem that there is a new oil spill every day. More often than not, these occurrences are the result of faulty equipment or improper monitoring. Unfortunately, clean-up is not an easy task to undertake,- especially when the affected area is a body of water. Spills that pollute lakes, rivers and oceans can take years to rectify, and in many cases cannot be completely resolved.
Chemically speaking, oil and water do not mix. When energy companies do not properly care for and check their pipes and wells, disaster is more than likely to crop up. Cleaning up after an oil spill is a long, arduous project, and there are residual damages to a spill that can never be fixed. This is not only bad for an organization's bottom dollar and public image, but is irreversibly damning to the ecosystem.
Assessment alone of recent spill could take years
In many situations, there is no way to fully comprehend the damage that has been done in the immediate aftermath of a spill. The recent leak in the Galveston Bay in Texas is proof of that. The Associated Press reported that thousands of gallons of oil were released into the bay when two oil ships collided. While this incident has not been tied specifically to an equipment failure, it still illustrates just how dire an oil spill can be - it is expected that a full environmental assessment alone could take several years to complete.
"You've got all kinds of different wildlife that could be impacted," said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist Chip Wood to The Galveston County Daily News, according to AP. "You've got marshes, you've got sand beach, you've got recreational issues, so it's quite an extensive evaluation."
This is why oil companies need to make equipment condition monitoring a top priority. Clean-up can last for quite some time, keeping resources from being allocated in more beneficial ways. In the case of the 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, for example, remnants of crude material are still being found.
Oil never really gets cleaned up
According to Science World Report, ripples from the impact of the Deepwater Horizon incident continue to be felt. According to researchers, remnants of the spill washing ashore in the form of "sand patties," which signify that there could still be a considerable amount of oil remaining on the ocean floor. This is troubling news, considering that it has been four years since the initial event and clean-up has reached the limits of what it can accomplish.
Oil companies have a responsibility not only to the environment, but to themselves. Nobody wins when these leaks occur. Organizations have to deal with fines, downtime, a potential PR nightmare and - on top of everything else - the guilt of having caused environmental destruction. There needs to be a new level of responsibility in this industry, and it is increasingly clear that advanced equipment monitoring systems are the only way to get there.
Human error is something that can be a massive blow to any business, regardless of its function. In light of this, companies should be investing in the sensors and software that will allow them to gain a better understanding of how their operations are running. This is not only a good enterprise move to make, but one that will have a lasting, positive impact on the planet.