Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Off-Shore Oil Rigs

The oil spill in the gulf is a disaster. So far there has been no authoritative forecast about containment. Isn't that a bit odd?  Oh well.

I assume the people that design and operate off-shore oil platforms have to follow strict safety regulations - yet I've no idea where such controls from. The industry? I doubt it. Since so much of America's industrial activity is regulated and controled by our Federal Government, I think it is a safe bet that's where the safety regulations come from - and If so,I would think it is the government's responsibility to enforce them. But first,  who is the responsible party?  British Petroleum leased the platform from Deepwater Horizon, who seem to have hired another company by the name of Transocean to operate the rig. They each seem to have some degree of responsibility.

The floating, drilling platform rig was located 42 miles off shore. There are many oil fields closer to shore and not as deep (5,000 ft+),  but drilling is prohibited by the  Federal Government. Slant drilling from our dry coastal land tapping known oil sources close in-shore, and fixed platform, off-shore drilling rigs have been protested by environmental action groups for many years. After the Exxon Valdez incident in Alaska, these environmental groups have put ever-increasing pressure on our Federal Government to prohibit this kind of drilling. The (perhaps unintended) consequence is that drilling off-shore has been forced far away from the coastlines, as much as 42 miles for example. So, the leaking rig wouldn't exist at all if not for the environmental groups well intended pressure to not drill near American shores. In this case the unintended consequence turned out to be an environmentalist's worst nightmare, an environmental catastrophe more devastating than any before in history.

Back to the leaking oil.  According to the media, the standard B.O.P. (blow out preventor) is a guillotine like device that is supposed to slice into and block the drill pipe when actuated. It failed.  BP  (British Petroleum), together with the U.S. Coast Guard, attempted to use a remotely controlled submersible device to find out why the BOP didn't engage, and fix it.  The attempt failed.  

Geology isn't my strong suit (and nothing is). So in my ignorance I picture a crude oil mass distributed in some sort of shale or other physical matter that may or may not be under pressure. If a drill bores through layers of matter to an oil pool that is under pressure . . . a gusher results as the pressure is released.  Makes sense I guess, and if so, a pool not under pressure . .  would yeild no gusher - and the oil would have to be pumped (sucked) out.   Since this accidental (?) oil spill is pouring like a geyser out of the ground and into the Gulf of Mexico, it must be under tremendous pressure.  There is  apparently a pipe between the bottom of the sea bed 5,000+ feet below - and the oil pool below that.

It sounds like there is a pipe (or hose) between the 5,000+ feet deep sea bed and the rig. and that pipe or hose was severed just before or during the collapse of the drilling rig. Oil is now gushing out of the fracture at an rate that has overwhelmed normal safety systems. 
  • "Are other off-shore drilling rigs operating with questionable blow out controls?"
  • Why don't the engineering requirements include a back up system of closure?
  • "Are off-shore drilling rigs safer than transporting oil in huge ships?
Why is our government making it so difficult to get answers to these questions?

2 comments:

ElvisS_Scholten0188 said...

may the blessing be with you.........................................

Greybeard said...

It seems we're always being reactive, rather than proactive. I know there will always be surprises, but with the disastrous potential here you'd think ALL possible safety considerations would be redundant, maybe DOUBLE redundant wouldn't you?
...Fishermen and those that support them completely out of work.
...The tourism industry and all its support systems (Entertainment, lodging, food, fuel, transportation, clothing, and more!) damaged.
The hit to the food supply in the region will have a ripple effect throughout the nation when those costs were already on their way up...
And who will eventually pay for all the damage? Certainly not BP... they'll just pass their costs on to us!
The economic effect this will have on Gulf States is incomprehensible. The Nation as a whole will eventually feel its effect at a time when we certainly don't need another open wound.
Our government has constructed a house of cards... how much pressure can it withstand before collapsing?