Jul 18 2016

Atlantis Dual Gas and Oil Platform Case Study

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In the year 1998, the third largest oil field was discovered in the Gulf of Mexico. 6 years later, BP oil refinery finally permanently moored the then deepest dual gas and oil rig in the world, Atlantis (Atlantis Fact Sheet, 2013, p. 1).

Since then, other offshore energy developments have taken the title of deepest oil/gas rig. However, Atlantis is still known as one of BP’s most technologically advanced projects. Stationed at a water depth of 7074 meters in Green Canyon 787 ~ 150 miles south of New Orleans (Atlantis Fact Sheet, 2013, p. 1), Atlantis produces approximately 200,000 barrels of oil and 180 million cubic feet of gas per day (http://theogm.com/2015/03/05/7-technologically-advanced-oil-rigs/) with a main power generation capability of 63 MW(Atlantis Fact Sheet, 2013, p. 1).

While the individual cost for the construction of this operation could not be found, the investments for Atlantis and a number of others between 2004 -2009 cost around $30 billion dollars (Magner, p. 167). Atlantis most likely took a good portion of these investments since BP and BHP were depending on it to create a positive difference in corporate fortunes due a flattening of revenue. Fortunately for them, it  has fulfilled these hopes and expectations and continues to operate today, 12 years after installation. The monetary costs, however, does not take into account the environmental cost of this development.

According to the BP environmental statement, their oil and gas rigs impact the environment through four major ways: atmospheric emissions, permitted water discharges, spills, and waste (BP in the Gulf of Mexico, 2011, p.12).

Note that there was no information specific to Atlantis regarding individual rig emissions, but there was information about BP’s projects and developments as a whole.

Atmospheric emissions from BP rigs mostly originate from the combustion of fossil fuels to create electricity. Other sources of atmospheric emissions may occur from fugitive emissions from valves, and pipe fittings, flaring, and venting (BP in the Gulf of Mexico, 2011, p. 13). Flaring is the process that offshore operations use to burn gas that is found in oil and gas reservoirs as a safety or maintenance measure for wells. This type of pollution has mostly increased since Atlantis was first operated. The only times when there was a decrease in atmospheric emissions was when either a furnace was going out of service, a limit was put on drilling, or an involuntary decline production (BP in the Gulf of Mexico, 2011, p. 13).

From Toledo Refinery (BP) Environmental Statement for 2015

From Toledo Refinery (BP) Environmental Statement for 2015

The largest source of wastewater from an offshore project like Atlantis is produced water (BP in the Gulf of Mexico, 2011, p. 14). Produced water is water that is drawn up along with gas and oil when they are extracted and it contains hydrocarbons and various contaminants such as oils/grease and ammonia.  Like with the atmospheric emissions, waste water pollution has also increased over the years – examples include: a 25% increase in Chemical Oxygen Demand, 181% increase in Ammonia, 8% increase in Phenolic compounds and a 60% increase in Mercury (BP in the Gulf of Mexico, 2011, p. 14). According to the latest environmental impact statement released by BP in 2015, 20,693 gallons of refinery effluent was flowing into Maumee Bay every minute.  This was a 3% increase when compared to the water waste produced in 2013 (Toledo Refinery, 2014, p. 7).

From Toldeo Refinery (BP)Environmental Statement for 2015

From Toldeo Refinery (BP)Environmental Statement for 2015

The next type of waste, solid and hazardous contaminants that are generated by rigs like Atlantis, have also followed the positive trend seen in atmospheric and wastewater emissions. Hazardous waste produced in 2014 by Atlantis and its counterparts under BP totaled a shocking amount of 6667 tons. This was a 214% increase compared to the previous year in 2013. Nonhazardous waste also increased by 33% to a total of more than 40000 tons during this time (Toledo Refinery, 2014, p. 8).

Though these are the four methods described in the environmental impact statement, they are not the only ways oil and gas rigs pollute and interrupt the natural flow of the marine ecosystem. Currently, developers of offshore renewable marine energy have to face a number of obstacles; some of these obstacles are technical while others are not. Ironically, this much more environmentally friendly form of energy harnessing could also potentially also harm the environment. While these issues may make renewable forms of energy development dangerous to the environment, its dangers are dwarfed by that of nonrenewable offshore energy. Environmental impacts from offshore renewable energy include noise pollution, leakage, disturbance of the ocean floor, or interruption of migratory routes. Operations like Atlantis pose these same risks and dangers as well as the ones previously described. While the BP environmental statement only lists a few direct sources of pollution, it ignores these less tangible ways to detect environmental damage in the report.

Based on the consistent and upward trend of waste produced by BP operations like Atlantis, one could assume that environmental well-being is not a priority.  Atlantis is just the first of many future deep water offshore oil or gas platforms that BP hopes to install. If more continue to be developed, especially on the same scale as Atlantis, the environment, not just the marine one, would suffer greatly. Thus, efforts to developing renewable energy are of utmost importance.

Bibliography

1.”Atlantis Fact Sheet.” Bp.com. BP Oil Refinery, 14 June 2013. Web. 8 July 2016.

2. “BP in the Gulf of Mexico.” Bp.com. BP, 2013. Web. 7 July 2016.

3. Magner, Mike. Poisoned Legacy: The Human Cost of BP’s Rise to Power. New York: St. Martin’s, 2011. Print.

4. THE BUREAU OF OCEAN ENERGY MANAGEMENT,   REGULATION AND ENFORCEMENT. “BP’s Atlantis Oil and Gas Production Platform:  An Investigation of Allegations That BP Did Not Have Access to Engineer‐Approved Drawings.” (2011):    40-48. Web. 9 July 2016.

5. Toledo Refinery. “Environmental Statement for Year 2015.” (2014): 7-9. Web. 9 July 2016.