Monday, May 03, 2010

Governator Shuts Down Drilling In State Waters

Now take California. Please.

No, just kidding. California, the state of my origin has just done the right thing, again, through its Republican governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Schwarzenegger took one look at the looming ecological disaster that BP and its henchmen have inflicted on the Gulf Coast, an area that has been generally benign toward offshore oil development, and passed on a 2008 agreement to develop oil deposits that occur in state waters by drilling horizontal wells from existing rigs that are currently sitting in federal waters.

Proposed by a Texas oil consortium that calls itself Plains Exploration and Production Co., or PXP, the project would have brought much-needed oil revenue to California, to the tune of $100 million per year.

A nice chunk of change for a state which is reeling under an $18 billion budget deficit.

But the governator is opting out and is closing exploration and development drilling in California state waters (which extend from the beach to 3 miles offshore) “for the foreseeable future.”

From AP through the Houston Chronicle:

“You turn on the television and see this enormous disaster, you say to yourself, 'Why would we want to take on that kind of risk?' Schwarzenegger said.”


Back in 1969 California experienced the first significant offshore oil disaster in the now historic Santa Barbara Channel blowout. The blowout polluted the beaches of some very high priced real estate and brought on a federal moratorium on offshore oil drilling that lasted for some years.

Tony Strrickland, a GOP California state senator and PXP-supporter complains that the present disaster in the Gulf in no way, shape or form resembles the Santa Barbara oil spill.

“‘They are two completely different types of drilling. In the Gulf they had to use floating platforms because of deep waters. T-ridge is only 1,000 feet deep and the platforms would be fixed,’ Strickland said. ‘If we don't drill oil here, then we have to import it from overseas, which also has a big risk of oil spills’”

I love that last argument. If we don’t drill for it we’ll have to tanker it in.

This is a nice argument that might even make some sense, except that our unquenchable thirst for crude oil, our vast demand for the stuff, requires that we import oil from the Middle East whether we drill for it here or not.

But the reality is this: the present BP disaster resembles what happened 41 years ago in Santa Barbara more than anyone is willing to admit.

The Santa Barbara blowout occurred on a platform set in 188 feet of water, set into the seabed. That makes it dissimilar because the Deepwater Horizon was a floater. However, that is where the dissimilarity ends. In 1969 they were drilling well A-21 off Platform A in the Dos Cuadras Field, operated by Union Oil Company. For reasons that became apparent later, surface casing was set too shallow. When the drillers were pulling the drill string out of the hole the well was “swabbed” – sort of what you do with a plumber’s friend in your kitchen sink, but in the opposite direction.

Oil came up to the drill floor and the BOP was immediately closed. Oil stopped flowing. But what happened next, because the surface casing was set to shallow, the high pressure oil fractured the surrounding shallow sediments, and oil flowed up these fractures to the sea floor.

Just about exactly what is happening in the BP well, from the reports I hear. Oil is not just flowing through the BOP which never closed off completely, but also from the seabed.

To this day tentlike structures on the seafloor around Platform A collect the slowly seeping petroleum from these seeps – much like the dome that BP is proposing to build and deploy.

So, beg to differ, this thing in the Gulf looks a lot like the blowout event in the Santa Barbara Channel.

But the whole irony of the article we read in the Houston Chronicle is from contributions from the local commenters. The gist of their argument is that if California won’t drill for oil in their state offshore acreage, they should not get a drop of oil from Texas – or Louisiana.

Sometimes I have to shake my head in disbelief at the incredible ignorance of my fellow Texans on the right.

California imports no oil from the Gulf Coast.

As a matter of fact, and I remember this well, the irony of it that is, in 1986 the Pacific Texas Pipeline Company laid a thousand mile-long oil pipeline from California to Texas. Not to get oil to California from Texas, but the other way around. To send oil produced from California and Alaska oil fields to Texas refineries.

1 comment:

Marsha said...

Dang,Little Bro, I remember the California spill. I knew it was bad then but didn't equate it as being the same as the Gulf blowout till you explained it. Your so smart you scare me!