Friday, April 30, 2010

The Next Crisis

The Deepwater Horizon was - and is - the future of deep water drilling. It was an ultra-deepwater dynamic position semi-submersible oil rig. Deep water drilling is the future of hydrocarbon exploitation.

Here is a picture of a similar ultra-deepwater rig - the Deepwater Nautilus under dry tow:

These mammoth ships are the equivalent of the Saturn Vs, Space Shuttles and International Space Station. Designed to work under extreme and uncertain conditions and requiring the highest levels of engineering and brawn to make them successful. These things require the purest combinaiton of American white collar and blue collar skill. It is damned dangerous work. It always has been and it always will be no matter how many rules and regulations you write or procedures you put in place.

Here are the type of rigs is use today:

But what they do is not new; where they do it, in the deep waters of the Gulf, is.

Seventy-seven years of drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.

In 1933, the first well drilled on state offshore lands was drilled at Creole, LA, approximately, 3,000 ft. off the beach in 12 ft. of water.

In 1947 Kerr McGhee drilled the first well out of sight of land in Ship Shoal Block 52.

In 2001, BP and Exxon announced the largest deepwater oil discovery to date in the Gulf of Mexico, located in 5,640 ft. of water, called Thunder Horse.

In 2002, Marathon and TotalFinaElf marked another milestone for deepwater operations by successfully installing a natural gas pipeline tie in 7,209 ft. of water.

Within the span of these milestones, approximately 4,000 oil platforms and drilling rigs have been erected.

Seventy-seven years. Here's a schematic of the total rigs under operation:

It is unreasonable and simply stupid to be surprised that such endeavors can be subject to total failure and destruction. You'd think that Deepwater Horizon was the first rig attempting to tap into the Earth, only to be snapped in half and pulled into her remorseless blue maw.

A tragic accident, human stupidity, a work of Fate, the manifestation of some enviro-terrorist plot, annular gas migration through the cement sheath, the fruition of an Al Quds in Venezuela training exercise.

As they say, who the fuck knows?

Many, many could bes and now we are told that until we understand what it could be, it must stop. Man must stop. Industry must stop. The rigs anchored up the rivers. The permits cancelled. The roustabouts, the toolpushers, the roughnecks, the mudengineers, the derrickhands, and the engineers are to be laid off, fired, or not hired. Hands must be wrung. Souls searched. Tears shed. Lobbyists deployed. Speeches written. Subpoenas issued. Accusations hurled. Suits filed.

Empty caskets buried.

11 empty caskets. Men lost in the conflagration. Their bodies consumed by fire and water.

Jason Anderson - Toolpusher

Dewey Revette - Driller

Donald Clark - Asst. Driller

Stephen Curtis - Asst. Driller

Dale Burkeen - Crane Operator

Roy Kemp - Derrickhand

Karl Kleppinger - Floorhand

Shane Roshto - Floorhand

Adam Weise - Floorhand

Gordon Jones - Mud Engineer

Blair Manuel - Chemical Engineer

Rest in peace.

Let's remember, too, that 115 people made it off that rig. Most of them will recover and they'll head back out onto some rig and face the same catastrophic risk again.

There have been many accidents, much loss of life, defilement of the environment. Hurricanes Katrina and Rita destroyed 109 oil platforms and 5 drilling rigs.

According to one report, workers in pursuit of oil and natural gas in the Gulf of Mexico have been dying in accidents at the rate of one every 45 days since the mid-1990s.

And what is President Obama’s reaction?

New exploration and drilling must stop.

Really? For how long?

A transparently political reaction allowing him to avoid meeting his half-assed policy of opening new offshore areas to drilling. If he was truly concerned, he’d call for a moratorium and shutting down of all drilling in the Gulf. The accident has nothing to do with new drilling or exploration. It was a drilling accident, involving existing drilling techniques failing under human action or Earthly force, presumably being put into practice on any other one of those 4,000 platforms glowing yellow on that map above. So the President's initial reaction is like all his other reactions - turn a one time event into a crisis of indeterminate length.

Of course the disaster requires the best forensic response and the cleanup, but a moratorium on new drilling and exploration is irrelevant to the accident. Given the outcomes of all the other crises this country has been through the past two years, it would not be surprising to the complete federal takeover of the oil drilling industry.

The girls running the administration's departments of concern are “frightened.”
"It is of grave concern," David Kennedy of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, told The Associated Press. "I am frightened. This is a very, very big thing. And the efforts that are going to be required to do anything about it, especially if it continues on, are just mind-boggling."

Then get the fuck out of the way, Mr. Kennedy. Frightened and mind boggled. Really?

And of course Mother Nature’s priests are creaming their pants over the thought of broad scale destruction of the Louisiana coast.

"It’s quite possible this will end up being worse than the Valdez in terms of environmental impact since it seems like BP will be unable to cap the spill for months. In terms of total quantity of oil released, it seems this will probably fall short of Exxon Valdez. But because of the habitat, the environmental impact will be worse," John Hocevar, oceans campaign director for Greenpeace USA, told MSNBC Thursday.
Or this:

"There are grave environmental concerns which this horrific spill has highlighted," said Bob Deans, spokesman for the Natural Resources Defense Council, which opposed the policy. "We need a time out on any action to go forward with new offshore drilling because this has obviously raised a bunch of questions. We need a full comprehensive independent investigation."

Hopefully, it will take years to complete the investigation, Mr. Deans thought but didn’t say. Better get moving on those fund raising letters and multi-million dollar ad campaigns excoriating Big Oil and Fat America.

In the world SBD inhabits, the President would stand before the country and announce that 11 good men lost their lives on that platform; 115 others survived because of their training and the hard effort of local fisherman and the USCG; they worked at the forefront of entrepreneurialism and technological prowess to feed our nation's future; their industry is of national strategic importance; and their sacrifice will not be sacrificed to hand wringing, political hackery and bureaucratic immobilization at the hands of the enviro-religious. But we don't have that President. And we don't live in that fantasy world.