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Sunday, December 11, 2011

MooPig's History Minute :: Article from 08 \ 21 \ 2007 "Isn't this transcendent?"

Retrieved by Pat Darnell | Dec 11, 2011 | Bryan TX
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The Gulf of Mexico doesn't come with a Lifetime Guarantee, it doesn't have an EPA Rating, and you can't get one at SEARS stores ... that said, I have sentiments about the Gulf of Mexico. My misspent youth is remembered in units of when I was misbehaving somewhere on the beaches of the Gulf.

Corpus Christi, Galveston, Bolivar, Kemah, Stewart's, el Jardin at the Bay, Seabrook, Pirates' Beach... you name it I have stomped there. I'm not alone. There are plenty of people out there who have been in the canals and warm waters of  USA's third coast. Besides human interactions, it has served as brooding grounds for hundred millions migrating animals, birds and sea creatures.

At some point even a sophomoric moron latches onto the concept that the earth is one of a kind. The closest thing to it is at least 5000 light years away... eh? That makes the Gulf of Mexico with its multiple layers of bounty all the more UNIQUE.

It's a big body of brine water, so I think it can push back as humanity invades it. I have seen it go from seriously polluted in the 1970's, to a cleaner place of the 1990's... but that was after a conscious effort by residents and governments against contumacious usurpers of nature.

Most lately the Gulf of Mexico BP Oil Spill Disaster has us all on edge. I cannot get past it myself. What a calamity to have to live with, knowing the Gulf as I do. Maybe a little history of drilling can help me out. Here goes, an article from 2007 -- before the BP disaster:

Five Miles Deep: Pumping Oil from the Bottom of the Gulf:
EXCERPT | " ... He works for Chevron, and his team is sitting on several new record-breaking discoveries in the Gulf, a region that many geologists believe may have more untapped oil reserves than any other part of the world. On this trip, the 48-year-old vice president for deepwater exploration has come to a rig called the Cajun Express to oversee final preparations before drilling begins on the company's 30-square-mile Tahiti field. (Little, Amanda Griscom. 8.21.2007. HERE) ...

... That 5-mile shaft will soon give Chevron the deepest active offshore well in the Gulf. Some land drills have gone deeper, but extracting oil from below miles of freezing salt water and unyielding sediment creates a set of technical problems that far exceed those faced on terra firma. ...

... Today, deep-sea rigs are capable of reaching down 40,000 feet, twice as deep as a decade ago: plunging their drills through 10,000 feet of water and then 30,000 more feet of seabed. One platform sits atop each so-called field, thrusting its tentacles into multiple wells dug into ancient sediment, slurping out oil, and then pumping it back to onshore refineries through underwater pipelines. ...

... It's a business where huge sums are lost (two years ago, BP suffered a $250 million blow when a hurricane took out one of its platforms) but even more can be made. The mother lode of oil in the deepwater Gulf is so significant that Tahiti and other successful fields in this region are expected to soon produce enough crude to reverse the long-standing decline in US oil production of about 10 percent per year. ...

... Today, many of the world's largest fields — from Ghawar in Saudi Arabia to Prudhoe Bay in Alaska — are facing retirement, and the ultradeep frontier holds the industry's best hope for big new discoveries. But there are still big questions to be answered before Jack starts filling gas tanks: How well will oil flow from these prehistoric rocks? Can Chevron's equipment handle the increased temperatures and pressures at these depths? Can engineers successfully pump the oil back to shore? ...

... One of Chevron's top geologists, a Jerry Garcia look-alike named Barney Issen, pulls an image of the Jack field up onto the monitors. "To you, this may looks like a dog's breakfast," he says, pointing to a multi colored morass. But the data is actually a finely detailed 3-D map of the ocean, seafloor, and sediment below. It will allow Chevron to locate promising spots to drill and then provide a guide for the engineers who operate the production process remotely. ...

... Chevron needed to use masses of microphones to compensate for the distortions caused by a layer of salt as jagged as the Swiss Alps beneath the seafloor in the ultradeep regions of the Gulf. That mineral, unfortunately for the geologists in Houston, acts like a fun-house mirror for seismic sound waves. Issen compares sorting through the data to "peering through a thick wall of mottled glass and trying to count the freckles of someone on the other side." ...

... The Cajun is equipped with other perks: an Internet caf√©, a gym, and a movie theater — but these luxuries are hardly used. Few of the men have the energy for entertainment or exercise after working a 12-hour shift on the drilling floor — hauling great vats of mud used for drill lubricant, welding broken iron casings, or repairing robotic submarines that fix problems with seafloor equipment. The living quarters, which house up to 150 workers, are the size of walk-in closets, filled with cot-sized bunk beds that fold out of the walls. ...

Conclusion: ... "When you're here, you're pretty much working or sleeping," says Siegele. Stout salaries make up for the extreme conditions: Entry-level tool pushers make about $60,000, and high-level geologists and engineers can earn in the mid six figures. Added bonus: a massive testosterone rush. "This is the best big-boy toy you'll ever find," says Chevron spokesperson Mickey Driver. ...

As consensus grows that the world needs to shift away from fossil fuels, extracting oil from the most extreme and costly locations can seem foolishly myopic. If Chevron is going to throw billions of dollars into something untested and possibly doomed to failure, wouldn't it make more sense to invest in an inexhaustible, greener technology that's going to have political support a decade from now?
Siegele doesn't think so. He does know that geological limitations will prevent him from drilling much deeper: It's a pretty safe bet that below 40,000 feet, the extreme heat has baked off much of the deep-sea troves of crude. ... "

" ... For example, when a tool got stuck down the hole during one well test, someone suggested just banging a giant hammer against the casing, sending vibrations down that jarred the tool loose. ...
"Then, out in the distance, I spot fleets of trawlers the size of thumbnails setting off seismic guns in search of the next big deep-sea prospect. (Little, Amanda Griscom. 8.21.2007. HERE)"

The Gulf of Mexico is teeming with life, and activity, and should be given a little slack, because I know it can bounce back in short order from most all intrusions.

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