Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.

The Oil Game They're Playing In Our Oceans Ain't "Beanbag"

by BobHiggins Tue Jun 22nd, 2010 at 01:31:51 PM EST

Originally posted at my site Bob Higgins

Oil giant Chevron, in the wake of one of the world's worst environmental disasters in the Gulf of Mexico is dragging its corporate feet over Canadian requests for increased safety procedures at a deep water well off the coast of Newfoundland. The company's Lona O-55 exploratory well is about 258 miles northeast of St. John's, in the Orphan Basin.

BP's out of control gusher in the gulf is just over 5000 feet deep while the Chevron well off the Canadian coast is 8,530 feet beneath the surface.

If the pressure of the water column at the site of the BP wellhead is 40,000 lbs per square foot (277 lbs/sq. in.)  the pressure of the water column at the site of the  Chevron well would be over 68,000 lbs per square foot (473 lbs/sq. in.) The pressures in the reservoir of BPs Gulf well are in the  neighborhood of 12,000 lbs/sq. in. after you add up the weight of the  water column and the thousands of feet of mud and rock above the  reservoir. (water at 8 lbs/cu. ft - rock at 160 lbs/ cu. ft.)

Chevron says that a relief well isn't necessary; according to their "Atlantic Manager," Mark McLeod:

"We believe all wells  can be drilled incident free. We believe this  well will be drilled  incident free and we won't need a relief well."

Apparently Chevron's managers and technocrats are suffering under the same the same level of arrogance as their counterparts at BP.  I mean really "what could go wrong?"

Canada's regulations for offshore drilling are more stringent than those called for here in the oil coddling US and require that the planning and equipment necessary to drill a relief well be in place as the main hole is being drilled. This is a costly requirement but one that in a rear view mirror image of the Gulf of Mexico now looks like a bargain.

As depths and pressures increase the farther below the surface and the deeper into the guts of the Earth we drill, the difficulties, dangers and potential for catastrophic outcomes increase at an even greater rate.

Given what we have seen with BP's disastrous gusher, their failures of management and physical systems, I think that we should require the drilling of a relief well concurrent with the main bore and redundancy in blow out prevention and other safety systems, in all deep offshore wells no matter what the expense, or,  stop drilling at such depths and under such conditions.

If these requirements drive up the price at the pump, so be it.  We are going to pay the costs of catastrophe anyway by the time BP does their taxes and sticks us up at the refinery and the pump.  After all is said and done, applying such realities to the price of oil will make renewable energy sources more competitive and help to hasten the end of our use of fossil fuels.

It seems to me that we should be less concerned with the odds of "an incident" occurring and much more concerned with the potential for catastrophic outcomes resulting from the occurrence of  "any incident."

This ain't "beanbag" they're playing in our oceans, this game is for keeps, ask the people who depend on the Gulf for their livelihood;  hell, ask a pelican or a dolphin.

I don't really care what Mark McCleod "believes." We know from the record so far what BP's management "believed," we know that they dragged their feet over safety, over planning and other considerations for undesired outcomes, and we are now paying the costs of their arrogance and will continue to do so for many years.

McLeod also made this statement which I find doubly strange in light of his earlier statement declaring that all wells would be drilled "incident free:"

"I will have to say as you're drilling a second  well you're exposing people to the risk of drilling each well, so you're effectively doubling the risk," MacLeod said.

What should be immediately placed under serious consideration is the establishment of a National Energy Trust modeled along the lines of Norway's program which would place all Energy under federal control and guidance and begin the formulation of a sane plan for our successful transition beyond the fossil fuel age.

With continued growth of population, the onset of climate change, and increased competition for all resources including food and water it is time for us to protect the commons from corporate usury while we still have something left to protect.

Bob Higgins

Related story:
Chevron: No relief well needed off Newfoundland

This is exactly the problem with the current anti-BP hysteria. Yes, BP had more rules violations than the other companies, but they are all engaged in basically the same enterprise. By vilifying BP, we distract ourselves from the larger problem.

How many accidents caused by how many company's wells will be required before we realize that it's not the companies that are the problem, but the entire "drill in the ocean" concept?

by asdf on Wed Jun 23rd, 2010 at 08:54:17 AM EST
In the same vein, the criticism that BP is in charge of the cleanup is also misdirected. It is in the nature of the industrial system that only major industry firms have the know-how and the material means to clean up their own messes. Same thing for criticism of the "revolving door".

By laying out pros and cons we risk inducing people to join the debate, and losing control of a process that only we fully understand. - Alan Greenspan
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Jun 23rd, 2010 at 09:03:27 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The mass media -- greatly assisted by the the 'progressive / in the tank for Obama and establishment Democrats' sections of the media and punditocracy -- have played the critical role in generating the obsessive BP focus. Since there is essentially no mass media on the left to oppose the BP scapegoating (not that they don't deserve some focus), you get what you get. So, I don't think any of "us" -- 'civilians' like you and me -- had anything to do with how this story is going to be played out.

by fairleft (fairleftatyahoodotcom) on Thu Jun 24th, 2010 at 06:07:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Did anyone else notice the technical errors in the story?

Align culture with our nature. Ot else!
by ormondotvos (ormond.otvosnospamgmialcon) on Wed Jun 23rd, 2010 at 07:38:00 PM EST
If the pressure of the water column at the site of the BP wellhead is 40,000 lbs per square foot [315,000+ lbs/sq ft?] (277 lbs/sq. in.) [2200+psi @ 4946 feet] the pressure of the water column at the site of the  Chevron well would be over 68,000 lbs per square foot[431,000#sqft] (473 lbs/sq. in.) The pressures in the reservoir of BPs Gulf well are in the  neighborhood of 12,000 lbs/sq. in. after you add up the weight of the  water column and the thousands of feet of mud and rock above the  reservoir. (water at 8[64] lbs/cu. ft - rock at 160 lbs cu. ft.)

We spend a lot of time berating the media for egregious errors of simple physical fact, implying that if they can't get their simple facts straight, why should we believe their interpretations?

Why should we believe this?

Align culture with our nature. Ot else!

by ormondotvos (ormond.otvosnospamgmialcon) on Wed Jun 23rd, 2010 at 08:52:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
277 lb/sq in x 144 sq in/sq ft = 39 888 lb/sq ft--so that is where they got their 40 000

473 lb/sq in x 144 sq in/sq ft = 68 112 lb/sq ft--close enough  

1728 cu in/cu ft x 8 lb/gal / 231 cu in/gal = 59.1 lb/cu ft unless you are using the old imperial gallons or something (I thought Canada went metric)  

(Eight pounds per cu ft!  That's a hoot!)

Yeah, somebody just didn't bother--or more likely--did not realize there was anything to check!  

277 lb/sq in x 8530 ft/ 5000 ft = 473 lb/sq in so all they are doing here is assuming pressure increases directly with depth, which considering water is fairly incompressible should be close enough--God forbid somebody should actually measure it or anything!  

I wonder if the original engineers got it right . . .

The Fates are kind.

by Gaianne on Fri Jun 25th, 2010 at 02:57:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I did, but I figured the water density one was a typo (he meant 80lb/ft^3, which is about right to an order of magnitude) and then I realised there is no point in correcting figures when the author insists on using archaic units.  Perhaps ET should insist on european(international) units?  Certainly less chance of stupid mistakes.
by njh on Mon Jun 28th, 2010 at 07:39:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
A really really nice beach until yesterday.


Photo was here:


Oil blackens Pensacola beach
BP's mess closes stretch of Gulf to swimmers
Jamie Page * jepage@pnj.com * June 24, 2010

On Wednesday -- the day after BP America's Chief Operating Officer Doug Suttles projected oil damage to the Panhandle would be similar to the tar balls already experienced -- parts of Pensacola Beach turned black.

For the first time since the Gulf of Mexico oil spill 65 days ago, emulsified oil in large patches stained the sugar-white sand on Pensacola Beach. Large numbers of tar balls continued to roll ashore.
A section of the Gulf along Pensacola Beach -- but not the beach itself -- was closed to swimming and wading after a health advisory was issued by the Escambia County Health Department.



by fairleft (fairleftatyahoodotcom) on Thu Jun 24th, 2010 at 06:25:30 PM EST
Oooooh, let's go swimming with Granny!

They tried to assimilate me. They failed.
by THE Twank (yatta blah blah @ blah.com) on Thu Jun 24th, 2010 at 06:36:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
drilling, even temporarily to figure out whether or not it is completely insane to be doing it, considering that we've had confirmed that nobody has any idea how to stop deepwater blowouts. Our corporate-ruled 'democracy':

June 23, 2010
Reagans Dead Hand Rises in the Gulf
The Oil Industry's Go-To Judge Comes Through

. . . Now, using classic Reaganesque logic . . ., Judge [ Martin Leach-Cross] Feldman has issued a temporary restraining order against the White House's six-month freeze on offshore drilling. His rationale for overturning the moratorium on drilling: The government hadn't provided an adequate justification for it.

As the judge put it: "If some drilling equipment parts are flawed, is it rational to say all are? Are all airplanes a danger because one was? All oil tankers like Exxon Valdez? All trains? All mines? That sort of thinking seems heavy handed and rather overbearing".

Well actually Judge, yes it is rational as a matter of fact. When the Exxon Valdez was crashed by a drunken captain into a rockpile, and its hold was gashed open, spewing 11 million gallons of crude oil into the pristine waters of Prince William Sound, it exposed for all to see the danger of single-hull supertankers, and led to requirements that tankers be built with double hulls. And yes, when an engine fell off a DC-10 jumbo jet, causing a fatal crash, all DC-10s were grounded until the problem was figured out, and all those planes around the world were refitted with a new pylon design. Similarly, when a few Toyota Prius cars were found to develop stuck accelerators, all Prius cars of that model were ordered back to the shop for repairs.

As a matter of fact Judge Feldman, a moratorium on new deep water drilling is exactly the proper response to a disaster that causes huge damage, or that poses the risk of significant deaths. You stop the practice until you can figure out what caused it and what needs to be done to make sure it doesn't happen again.

You jerk. . . .



by fairleft (fairleftatyahoodotcom) on Thu Jun 24th, 2010 at 06:49:08 PM EST
Gotta add a couple other great paragraphs from Lindorff's rant:

If anything it is shameful that it took the Obama administration so long--more than two weeks--to issue the moratorium on deepwater drilling. It is shameful in fact that the administration still hasn't put a moratorium on all undersea drilling. After all, we have already had blowouts similar to the BP disaster in shallow water, most recently in the Timor Sea off Australia, where a disaster very similar to the one in the Gulf of Mexico last year saw oil spilling out in massive quantities for months while a relief well was drilled. So it's not just deep water wells that are dangerous. . . .

But of course, Judge Feldman is no idiot. Rather, he appears to be a tool of the oil industry. In his required financial disclosure statement, he reported owning stock as recently as 2008 in offshore drilling companies, including up to $15,000 worth of shares in Transocean, the owner of the ill-fated Deepwater Horizon rig now sitting at the bottom of the Gulf.

by fairleft (fairleftatyahoodotcom) on Thu Jun 24th, 2010 at 06:53:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]

Go to: [ European Tribune Homepage : Top of page : Top of comments ]