Monday, June 21, 2010

BP - Are They Stupid?

Sharper pens than mine are writing extensively about the oil spill. They're doing a fine job of pointing out how the federal government has done everything but improve the situation. One thing I haven't heard much about though is this: water weighs eight pounds to the gallon.

So what? Why do I bother pointing out what every third grader knows? Because at eight pounds to the gallon, water exerts a tremendous pressure when you work at a depth of a mile. Everything you do, if you park a rig, drill a hole, a sink pipe - and whatever else needs to be done to extract oil - over that kind of depth, must be done in an environment that exacts mind-boggling pressure and complicates the simplest operations exponentially. A gushing well in shallower water would be much more easily capped because, working at decreased pressure depths, there is a wider range of equipment that is available to apply to the task.

Do oil companies not know this? Of course they do. They spend millions on research and development of the kinds of equipment that will function in that environment, and they spend millions more hiring the kinds of people who are willing to live on those lonely rigs.

Why in the world do they work at such depths then? Are they stupid? Why don't they drill in shallower waters where risks are lower and ruptures are more easily fixed?

Of course they're not stupid. They would gladly drill closer to shore where the depths are less and the risk is lower and their people are closer to home - but the environmental lobbies have made it impossible to drill close to shore.

Ironic, isn't it?


Keith Miller said...

Steven, I think that the enviros want the spectre of sludge covered pelicans, and miles of spoiled white sand beaches. Oil becomes the boogie man right before our very eyes. "Off shore drilling," shallow or deep, becomes a profanity. We could be doing much to mitigate the damage, ie. dispersants, burning, tankers and skimmers(foreign and domestic), barrier island creation, booms, etc., but each helpful action is being delayed if not stopped dead in its tracks, and mostly by the "enviromentalists." What we've gotten is a lot of talk about blame ownership and far too little action to help end the crisis and limit the impact. Enviros stand to gain much from making this oil's Three Mile Island. "Never let a good crisis go to waste." And I'd add, "create a good crisis if necessary."

Bill said...

Been arguing with people who insist that BP really doesn't want to plug the well or stop it because of the oil they are capturing from the cap. Are people idiots? BP is paying out millions each day and this spill may cost $100B before it is all said and done. Anybody who thinks BP doesn't have enough financial incentive to stop this thing any way they can is crazy. The 50K barrels of crude they are getting from the cap pales in comparision to the daily liability they are racking up. There is no conspiracy! BP would kill this well this minute if they could... much cheaper to kill it and drill another (as evidenced by the TWO wells they are drilling to relieve this one).

This is a very hard problem to solve.

BTW -- as bad as this spill is.. in fact, it is part of the cost of our need for energy.