Safety Program in Oil and Gas Industries
Some oil and gas production has resulted in serious accidents. The effects on the oil and gas companies of such accidents include both the direct economic costs and damage to company reputation. The reputation risk is likely to be particularly high in the Arctic since oil spills there will almost certainly attract greater attention than elsewhere – not only because of the fragility of Arctic ecosystems, the effects of oil in cold climates and the considerable challenges facing response actions, but also because of public perceptions of the Arctic as pristine wilderness.
As the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska in 1989 demonstrated, an oil spill in the Arctic could have enormous consequences for the Arctic communities and ecosystems. During the winter months, the Arctic seas are covered with ice and are not navigable by oil-spill response ships. This means that if a spill started in the winter, the oil could continue to gush into the sea and under the ice until the spring, lasting for several months or even longer. Clean-up in the Arctic would be hampered by sea ice, extreme cold, hurricane-strength storms and pervasive fog; also, it might take longer or be ineffective because of fewer support vessels and less infrastructure than usual. Some petroleum development plans are on hold because of environmental concerns.
In 2013, Shell reported that the company had postponed drilling in Arctic waters using a drill ship when serious questions were raised concerning deficiencies in its safety and pollution control equipment; 8 and in 2015 the company abandoned Arctic oil and gas exploration. 9 Indigenous and tribal peoples in the Arctic could be adversely affected by the socioeconomic and cultural consequences of accidents. Furthermore, work in extreme cold can impose severe working and living conditions on workers. 10 When accidents occur, fatalities can be higher than in any other region in the northern hemisphere because of more difficult evacuation, emergency response and rescue conditions.
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