Minimizing The Impact Of The Oil Industry On Montana’s Environment

Montana is rich in fossil fuels, and over 40,000 oil wells have been drilled here over the past three decades. The state is a major supplier of energy to the rest of the nation, and, because of its small population for its size, it is also a heavy consumer of petroleum per capita. This means that regulating the production and use of oil in the state is a priority in order to maintain a clean and healthy environment. Both active and abandoned oil wells need to be inspected on a regular basis to avoid ground contamination. And, as Missoula’s business opportunities attract new residents, increasing vehicle emissions are managed to improve air quality. Through pollution control programs and the careful monitoring of oil wells, contamination from oil production and consumption can be kept to a minimum

Regular Inspections Reduce Oil Leaks

The Montana oil industry is monitored by the Montana Board of Oil and Gas Conservation, who oversee conservation laws in the state. In regulating the exploration and production of oil, the Board can ensure that action is taken to prevent contamination of the land. This can occur because of damaged equipment or pipes, and so routine checking, testing and maintenance is essential. As any issues with in-ground pipes are not easily visible, it is important to include regular pipe inspections to detect common signs of damage such as cracks and corrosion that could cause further deterioration and lead to leaks. For safe, non-destructive inspections, flexible borescopes provide technicians with a clear view of a pipe’s interior so that they can promptly identify any damage before it causes more serious problems. This not only saves oil companies time and money, but also protects the land from pollution from leaks.

Oxygenated Gasoline Improves Air Quality

Although the city’s air quality has improved drastically in the last few decades, as Missoula’s population continues to grow, emissions from more vehicles could have an impact on pollution levels. As well as reducing levels of carbon monoxide through minimizing traffic congestion, in 1992, the town added a program for oxygenated fuels to the Missoula City-County Air Pollution Control Program. This means that during the winter months, gasoline for motor vehicles must be oxygenated to improve air quality. Since the program was introduced, Missoula has successfully kept under the levels for carbon monoxide set by The National Ambient Air Quality Standard for carbon monoxide.

Plugging Abandoned Wells Prevents Pollution

A reduction in oil prices has caused some oil wells to be abandoned in Montana. If orphaned wells are left untreated, they can leak greenhouse gases such as methane into the atmosphere, and contaminate groundwater with toxins. A foundation formed last year is now helping to clean up these wells in Montana. After checking emissions and ensuring that construction of the well is sound, the foundation plugs the wells, which results in the immediate elimination of greenhouse gas emissions.

The oil industry is valuable to Montana. Through the careful monitoring of active oil fields, air pollution control programs in cities, and initiatives to clean up abandoned wells, its environmental impact can be kept to a minimum.