Cooling Technology to the Rescue as Oil Companies Explore Arctic
Big oil companies are now turning to technology to protect their business from the effects of climate change. Companies that have been exploring the Arctic for oil drilling are now fighting with the effects of thawing and unstable permafrost.
However, even the impacts on their infrastructure are not enough to stop these companies from exploring further. While they might have to pay more to steady their infrastructure, many fossil fuel companies are now developing and using technology to keep permafrost from melting in order to continue drilling.
ConocoPhillips is one of the leading oil companies exploring for oil in the Arctic. The company developed special technology that would prevent permafrost — upon which its infrastructure is anchored — from melting. With plans to pump 160,000 more barrels of crude oil daily from its new project in Alaska’s North Slope, the company had to find a way of retaining its resources in the fast-melting region. So ConocoPhillips developed devices that will cool the ground beneath its structures.
Many would expect that due to the visible effects of climate change in the Arctic, the government would bar oil companies from further drilling.
However, the Trump administration has made it even easier for oil corporations to expand into protected regions. While other countries are also advancing oil exploration in the region, the U.S. has gone so far as to finalize plans to open part of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling.
The plans include allowing companies to operate at Teshekpuk Lake, a unique and important habitat that is also used by local Indigenous communities for fishing and hunting.
While the U.S. government is promoting oil exploration in the Arctic, those who rely on these natural ecosystems are already feeling the pain of climate change. Last year, fishing crews in Utqiagvik had to wait several weeks longer than usual for the arrival of bowhead whales due to rising temperatures. Given that the community relies on the whales for their diet, continued exploration may mean that the locals will face food scarcity in the future.
As locals struggle to deal with the changes caused by greenhouse gases, oil companies are changing their tactics to be able to continue drilling, which only worsens climate change and its detrimental impacts on the Arctic.