Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Oil drips and discharges - 28 April 2009

Here are two articles from The Oil Drum to peruse: Iraqi Oil: Black Gold or Black Hole? and Iraq's Oil: The Greatest Prize Of All ? These two articles go through the reason we went to war in Iraq: OIL. Specifically, how much is there under the dirt. While there are some good prospects in Kurdistan and the Western Desert, it's highly doubtful oil reserves will go much above about 60 billion barrels (half the stated Iraqi reserves).

The more recent article also touches on the challenges of even maintaining Iraqi production rates. The problems break down into a couple of categories:

• Endemic corruption (many of the technocrats that oversaw production have been killed/replaced with politically connected idiots)
• Political reserves (i.e.- lying to OPEC to up their production quota's)
• Bad management (Under Saddam, some of the northern oil fields were "oil-flooded" because the oil was embargoed, but the natural gas wasn't. That leaves a sticky mess that's extremely hard to recover from)
• Political rivalry and foreign oil company stalemates (Iraqi's have a long held mistrust of international oil companies)
• Political insecurity (including rampant violence that's still way to dangerous for international oil workers)

There's also basic phyisics and geology the Iraqi oil wells are starting to run into: Iraqi oil wells are watering out and production set to plummet. The only PSA currently in operation is a Chinese contract, signed in 1997 under Saddam, but even that one will probably soon be abrogated. Without a massive investment (which flat out ain't happening given the violence level and the always looming threat of nationalization), by 2012, Iraq's production will plummet, possibly below a million barrels a day (currently 2.2 MBD-ish - pre-war was 2.5 MBD).

Iraq will start running out of oil about the same time the last of the troops get on a plane to head back home. Nice timing.

How can we drill for oil in the arctic? Well, look at the Sevmorput, a nuclear-powered drillship. Ah, those crazy Ruskies and their Russian reactors.

Did oil prices cause the economic crisis? I've been seeing this theory pop up over and over. While there are structural issues that go beyond the price of oil (like the regulatory environment), as a proximate cause, it deserves some serious consideration. Think of it like the assassination of Franz Ferdinand. War followed, but that was just the spark that lit the fire. The area was packed with kindling before that and was just waiting on a spark, though.

And I'll close with a shiny thing next to some not so shiny things:

Oil Platform over depleted field sprouting a 5 MWe wind turbine off the coast of the Netherlands. We could easily be doing this off the coast of Louisiana.

UPDATE- I wanted to post more this morning, but was trying to get to work on time.

Here's a bit more:


Why Dick Changed His Mind. Cheney used to be fairly well grounded on foreign policy. What changed his mind was his belief that Peak Oil was imminent and the only way for the US to be successful in the 21st century was to control the largest supply of untapped oil (he thought, Iraq).

During the big push for offshore oil drilling over the summer, I heard some absolutely ridiculous claims about possible reserves off the eastern seaboard. I've come across a couple of scientific studies of the VERY limited drilling that occurred off the Jersey coast.

This article talks about uneconomical gas reserves found in the Baltimore Canyon. Also nice to read because of the discussion of Mukluk.

This is a (dated) but detailed study of the geology of the Baltimore Canyon. Baltimore Canyon won't have anywhere near the oil as, say, Mississippi Canyon or Cantarelle or other big GoM formations, but there's some promising territory there. I'd love to see what modern seismic could do. Just the subsea imaging alone has come a long way. That being said, there's no guarantee that oil found will be developed. All support infrastructure (pipelines, compression facilities, supply ports, etc.) would have to be built from scratch.

3 great photos of the drilling rig replacement operation at Shell Mars TLP. The scale on these photos is hard to wrap your head around, even when I've walked around the deck and peered up that the drilling rig. To think it got lifted up like that is amazing.

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