Wherein Offshore Drilling Reduces Oil in the Oceans

The spill in the Gulf is horrible.  The damage done to the coast, to the wildlife, to the people living there and the economy as a whole will be devastating.  Generations of small business owners will have been impacted by this before it’s over.  It may be decades before the local fisheries produce again; if they ever do.

The lives of those people living in New Orleans, just now recovering from Katrina, will be facing the headwinds of the loss of economic drivers for years.

It’s sad; jaw droppingly depressing.

And this is easy to blame on BP; heck, I am even blaming BP.

To be clear, there may be micro-fault that we find.  We may find, through investigations, that someone at some point failed to turn knob “A” or pull lever “B”.  There may be a valve that should have been there and wasn’t.  An order should have been given but wasn’t.  The specific failure will almost certainly be found.  But that’s not the blame I’m talking about.

The Macro-fault doesn’t exist.  We know, when dealing with systems, there is going to be a failure at some point.  A car will crash.  An airplane will fall from the sky.  Children get sick and houses will burn.  We know this and we accept this.  We try to make cars safer.  Planes too.  We take good care of our kids and make sure that we have good doctors.  We hire firemen and buy ’em trucks to deal with the fire.  We mitigate against failures in systems we know are going to happen.

Oil drilling is no exception.

Except Obama is going to demonize these guys.  He’s gonna tar and feather BP and all the oil companies with ’em.  He’s gonna slaughter Exxon, Shell, Citgo and all of ’em.  He’s gonna rail that oil is bad, that companies are bad and the profits theyy make are the devil hisself.  Sure as I’m sittin’ here he’s gonna do it.

But the ironic thing?  Off-shore drilling might actually reduce the amount of oil that finds its way into the ocean:

…ocean floors naturally seep more oil into the ocean than do oil-drilling accidents and oil-tanker spills combined.

Ironically, research shows that drilling can actually reduce natural seepage, as it relieves the pressure that drives oil and gas up from ocean floors and into ocean waters. In 1999, two peer-reviewed studies found that natural seepage in the northern Santa Barbara Channel was significantly reduced by oil production. The researchers documented that natural seepage declined 50 percent around Platform Holly over a twenty-two-year period, concluding that, as oil was pumped from the reservoir, the pressure that drives natural seepage dropped.

Who would have believed THAT?

Just don’t tell Obama.

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11 responses to “Wherein Offshore Drilling Reduces Oil in the Oceans

  1. Pingback: Oil in the Water: Drilling for Oil « Tarheel Red

  2. Hi Tarheel Red:

    Please consider the comments of a geohazards specialist who has reviewed your blog here.

    Noticed that his article had no comments. Only one repeating what he said. Maybe you can post my answer in your blog.

    “Posted by: pino | June 4, 2010 Wherein Offshore Drilling Reduces Oil in the Oceans”

    This article is as stupid as it can get.

    “And this is easy to blame on BP; heck, I am even blaming BP.”

    We are not blaming BP just because BP was the last one holding the short end of the stick. There are sufficient evidence (if the govt wants to) to hang BP for the many crimes they had committed under the shroud of secrecy. For a start, they drilled 3 wells instead of 1 and the 3rd was unauthorised,unapproved and unreported. If that is not illegal then what is.

    The well that blew was 714 ft NW of Well A. BP lied by reporting that the Burning DWH moved (in calm water?) by itself. The steel riser cannot extend that distance without breaking. In any case, the blown-out well could not have moved 714 ft NW from well A on the seabed.

    “To be clear, there may be micro-fault that we find. We may find, through investigations, that someone at some point failed to turn knob “A” or pull lever “B”. There may be a valve that should have been there and wasn’t. An order should have been given but wasn’t. The specific failure will almost certainly be found. But that’s not the blame I’m talking about.

    The Macro-fault doesn’t exist.”

    Pino, that is where you are totally wrong. The micro-faults in so many systems could not have all developed suddenly all at one time. Like a pyramid, the lower rung micro-faults must have sprung from a common source. BP’s main fault was reckless exploration management that went like an express train bent on a collision course; irrespective of the feedback of near-misses, nightmare drilling a well from hell, massive drilling mud and cement losses, unreal geological expectations despite what the mudlogs are telling on the contrary, etc etc. These are the hallmark of a dangerous, greedy, aggressive and imprudent corporate that had been cited for numerous safety violations and past disasters.

    If a drunk driver can be booked and jailed for being a potential danger to others, I do not see how a corporate drunken with power, bribery and greed complete with a proven record of being a hazard to the environment, workers and other inhabitants of this earth, can still be allowed to roam freely to cause hurt to others.
    We know, when dealing with systems, there is going to be a failure at some point.

    All systems will fail at one point due to poor regulations or when the controlling heads have failed to exert reasonable control and regulations. In a failed state like Zambia do you fault the individual citizens or do you fault President Mugabe which by the way had a PhD. BP’s Macondo exploration project had clearly failed not in finding the oil but in its HSE management even by its own inhouse HSE standards ( see http://bklim.newsvine.com/_news/2010/09/14/5108635-one-month-late-5-days-before-blowout-part-4-aomd)

    “But the ironic thing? Off-shore drilling might actually reduce the amount of oil that finds its way into the ocean:”

    This is one of the silliest thing I have heard. If there are so much natural seepage, why did the oil companies have to spend millions in trying to get oil from some the harshest, deepest and inaccessible parts of the earth. Why go to war over oil? I have been working in the geohazards survey industry for 30 years. If there had been so much natural oil seepage I would know. The fact is less than 20% of all sites surveyed are in danger of any immediate shallow gas hazards. Oil is even less. In one seabed sediment sampling of over 200 cores, not even one had any visible oil traces.

    This fallacy is being propagated and funded by BP in preparation for the vast amount of oil that will wash ashore in months to come after the runaway well had been supposedly killed and sealed. In reality, they had not. If not why would BP spend millions trying to grout the fissures in the vicinity of the Macondo Wells?

    BK Lim
    Geohazards Specialist

    • Hi BK Lim,

      Thank you for stopping by.

      We are not blaming BP just because BP was the last one holding the short end of the stick.

      I agree. I think ALL oil companies will be blamed.

      There are sufficient evidence (if the govt wants to) to hang BP for the many crimes they had committed under the shroud of secrecy.

      And for that, they should be persecuted. In fact, we should demonstrate that we are capable of managing current regulations before we enact new ones.

      These are the hallmark of a dangerous, greedy, aggressive and imprudent corporate that had been cited for numerous safety violations and past disasters.

      I think that you miss my point. Even if we don’t have an oil company that is dangerous, greedy, aggressive and imprudent, we will eventually have another oil spill.

      Just like somewhere, someday, the most well meaning parent in the world is going to suffer a catastrophic tragedy.

      If a drunk driver can be booked and jailed for being a potential danger to others,

      The drunk driver should be booked. As well as the illegal corporation. But again, my point is that we should not outlaw driving in totality.

      This is one of the silliest thing I have heard.

      Really?

      http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/2504076/posts

      http://www.heartland.org/article/25876/Research_Commentary_Drilling_for_Oil_in_Santa_Barbara.html

      http://www.dailytech.com/How+to+Reduce+Pollution+by+Drilling+for+Oil/article12810.htm

      If there are so much natural seepage, why did the oil companies have to spend millions in trying to get oil from some the harshest, deepest and inaccessible parts of the earth.

      They drill for oil in pockets of high oil concentrations. This is the same reason I reach for a glass of water to quench my thirst rather than just “breath water vapor”.

  3. You missed my point. Oil seepage on the seabed is a good indicator of oil underlying the seabed. Your contention is that offshore drilling for oil, you reduce the oil seepage to the seabed; implying the reservoir is overflowing with oil and natural seepage is abundant. That is simply not the case. If there is no leakage from the reservoir, there is no seepage to the seabed. Even when there is leakage, not all the oil will find their way to seabed. A high percentage will be trapped in the thousands of feet of sediment.

  4. I did not advocate a total ban in offshore drilling. I advocate prudent exploration management and enforcement of HSE policies. BP could not even comply with their own HSE policy. That is extremely poor HSE compliance.

    Also for the record, BP could have averted the disaster. After 3 repeated failures (out of well control situation) they still went ahead. It is like having 3 minor accidents and still refusing to stop to investigate as required by law.

    • I advocate prudent exploration management and enforcement of HSE policies. BP could not even comply with their own HSE policy. That is extremely poor HSE compliance.

      I agree.

      Before we enact new regulations, we should investigate the government to see why existing regulations are not being enforced.

      • I truly agree. I have been saying there is no need for more regulations – which only means more cost, and more oil companies circumventing those regulations. We need more effective enforcement not more regulations.

      • I have been saying there is no need for more regulations – which only means more cost, and more oil companies circumventing those regulations. We need more effective enforcement not more regulations.

        Correct.

        When someone exceeds the speed limit and causes an accident, the proper response is NOT to reduce the speed limit. The proper response is to better enforce the current limit better.

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