August 30, 2008
Elaine Meinel Supkis
Hurricane Gustav looks to be an epic storm. It will swell in size as it slowly drifts northwards over the 'sweet spot' which is nearly dead-center in the huge Gulf of Mexico bathtub. Two years has passed with no major hurricanes here so there is lots and lots of inert, warm water to stir up. A category 5 hurricane can easily destroy much of the US offshore oil drilling facilities. Also, England is seeing energy prices shoot upwards as the North Sea energy depletes much, much faster than estimated. And China is busy buying up the oil fields of Iraq. We get the wrong end of THIS stick, don't we? We may see oil rationing? A possibility this winter.
Note the density of rigs. Since the price of oil has shot through the roof this last 5 years thanks to the US oil wars, there are many, many more active rigs this year compared to say, 2005. A hurricane is like a huge egg beater set on high speed. As the water is churned from the atmosphere all the way down to the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico, this creates many waves of huge size. Below is an artful attempt at making a faux oil rig out of a Jägermeister liquor glass with a wineglass stem. The salsa cap represents the platform itself, the stem is the connection to the bottom of the gulf where the oil is pumped and the champagne cork is the upper stories of these rigs where the workers live, etc.
Maybe I should cut back in my drinking. Heh.
Hurricanes are huge, violent intensities that reach from the upper atmosphere, even to the lower stratosphere all the way to the bottom of the ocean. If we were fishes, we would 'see' these mega-storms as if they were tornadoes. Fishes flee these storms because they are quite violent. The connection of the platforms to the ocean bed is fairly secure in normal seas. Storms that are below a category 3 are easily shrugged off. But once the storms hit the fast forward button, when winds roar to over 170 mph or even 200 mph, the hurricane becomes one great big tornado that can literally pick up a great portion of the ocean itself and fling it forwards. When this hits anything in its path, that thing is destroyed.
Water is very heavy. Anyone who doubts this simply can pick up a large bucket of water and carry it. A bucket of water, when dumped suddenly, can erode the ground to a visible degree. When a hundred square miles of agitated ocean water is spun upwards at the center of the hurricane, this can bring down nearly anything in its path.
These platforms are built on concrete and/or steel legs anchored directly onto the seabed, supporting a deck with space for drilling rigs, production facilities and crew quarters. Such platforms are, by virtue of their immobility, designed for very long term use (for instance the Hibernia platform). Various types of structure are used, steel jacket, concrete caisson, floating steel and even floating concrete. Steel jackets are vertical sections made of tubular steel members, and are usually piled into the seabed. Concrete caisson structures, pioneered by the Condeep concept, often have in-built oil storage in tanks below the sea surface and these tanks were often used as a flotation capability, allowing them to be built close to shore (Norwegian fjords and Scottish firths are popular because they are sheltered and deep enough) and then floated to their final position where they are sunk to the seabed. Fixed platforms are economically feasible for installation in water depths up to about 1,700 feet (520 m).
These platforms consist of narrow, flexible towers and a piled foundation supporting a conventional deck for drilling and production operations. Compliant towers are designed to sustain significant lateral deflections and forces, and are typically used in water depths ranging from 1,500 and 3,000 feet (450 and 900 m).
These platforms have legs of sufficient buoyancy to cause the structure to float, but of weight sufficient to keep the structure upright. Semi-submersible rigs can be moved from place to place; can be ballasted up or down by altering the amount of flooding in buoyancy tanks; they are generally anchored by with chain, wire rope and/or polyester rope during drilling operations, though they can also be kept in place by the use of dynamic positioning. Semi-submersibles can be used in water depths from 200 to 10,000 feet (60 to 3,050 m).
Jackups, as the name suggests, are platforms that can be jacked up above the sea using legs which can be lowered like jacks. These platforms are typically used in water depths up to 400 feet (120 m), although some designs can go to 550 feet (170 m) depth. They are designed to move from place to place, and then anchor themselves by deploying the legs to the ocean bottom using a rack and pinion gear system on each leg.
A drillship is a maritime vessel that has been fitted with drilling apparatus. It is most often used for exploratory drilling of new oil or gas wells in deep water but can also be used for scientific drilling. Early versions were built on a modified tanker hull, but purpose-built designs are used today. Most drillships are outfitted with a dynamic positioning system to maintain position over the well. They can drill in water depths up to 12,000 feet (3,660 m).
The last batch of bad hurricanes made a total mess of the previous rigs in the Gulf. Katrina was a very big storm but this one could surpass Katrina in size, heft, dynamism and other bad features. Fortunately for everyone, it will be less than a quarter moon when the hurricane makes landfall so we won't have the moon's gravitational pull making things even worse. It looks pretty certain that all the oil rigs of every type will be shut down as much as possible.
When Katrina, Rita and then Wilma all wrecked havoc last time in 2005, the government lied about all this. They really did pretend that nothing was really amiss. This time around, there is so much worry and fear about oil prices and availability, all eyes will be on these precious rigs. The G7 nations were working very hard at trying to up the value of the dollar and bring down world oil prices this summer. And prices fell as speculators were forced to use much higher margins. Oil has settled down between $110-125 a barrel. Last year, exactly a year ago, I wrote about how it could double in price when it was 'only' $65 a barrel. Well, just like in 2005, we will see a big spike in prices by October.
Right now, everyone is pretty much holding their breaths. Hurricanes are notorious for shifting gears. We saw the wanderings of the last hurricane that wandered in and out of Florida for nearly a week. Fay was very fey. It wandered off across the Southwest, flooding everything in sight. This one, though, is making a beeline across the Gulf. And anyone who thinks oil will keep falling as the US and Europe simultaneously twist Putin's nose, screaming about how we don't need his oil or gas....while Mother Nature smashes a big portion of the US oil markets...incredible.
And very stupid. The G7 think, just because they are all wizards who can wave magic wands and make paper money have value, they control world energy markets. They do not. In 2005, everyone babied the US and gave us lots of oil after the hurricanes. This year, there is little mood to feed the voracious energy appetites of the US public. Certainly, China is too busy rebuilding after the earthquakes to give us much and after our epic howl-a-thonic histrionic hysteria during the Olympics, the Chinese purse may stay shut. And Russia will laugh at us. Europe and Japan can't feed our desires for oil. Only OPEC and Russia can do this.
Oh, and Canada. O, Canada! Give us your oil or else?
Offshore oil and gas operators in the Gulf of Mexico are evacuating platforms and rigs in the path of Hurricane Gustav. The Minerals Management Service has activated its Continuity of Operations Plan team to monitor the operators’ activities. This team will be activated until operations return to normal and the storm is no longer a threat to the Gulf of Mexico oil and gas activities.
Based on data from offshore operator reports submitted as of 11:30 a.m. CST today, personnel have been evacuated from a total of 223 production platforms, equivalent to 31.1 % of the 717 manned platforms in the Gulf of Mexico. Production platforms are the structures located offshore from which oil and natural gas are produced. These structures remain in the same location throughout a project’s duration unlike drilling rigs which typically move from location to location.
Personnel from 45 rigs have also been evacuated; this is equivalent to 37.2 % of the 121 rigs currently operating in the Gulf. Rigs can include several types of self-contained offshore drilling facilities including jackups, submersibles and semisubmersibles.
From the operators’ reports, it is estimated that approximately 76.77 % of the oil production in the Gulf has been shut-in. Estimated current oil production from the Gulf of Mexico is 1.3 million barrels of oil per day. It is also estimated that approximately 37.16 % of the natural gas production in the Gulf has been shut-in. As of June 2008, estimated current natural gas production from the Gulf of Mexico was 7.0 billion cubic feet of gas per day. Since that time, gas production from the Independence Hub facility has increased and current gas production from the Gulf is estimated at 7.4 billion cubic feet of gas per day.
Three quarters of the oil is no longer being pumped. This is a HUGE reduction. The uncertainty of the path of the hurricane is forcing this and if it is a massive category 5+ then ALL the rigs may be in grave danger of destruction, even total annihilation. Anchors will be dragged about and these will snag pipelines lying on the sea floor.
Rigs will be ripped out of their footings or torn from their anchors and crash into others. In Katrina, one rig was jammed under a highway bridge. There are several forces of nature we can't tame, control or sometimes even endure: meteorite or comet strikes, mega-storms, volcanic eruptions or 9+ earthquakes and attending tsunamis. Oh, and the sun blowing up, of course. Don't want to forget that. My grandfather who was an astronomer, loved to remind me of this possibility. It is a wonder I survived my childhood intact.
This is an amazing storm any way we look at it. The eye, even as it crashes into Cuba, is very well defined. The skirts of the storm's heaviest rain is deep and wide. And it has been grinding along the chain of Caribbean islands that inhibit total hurricane growth. If it is a category 4 in this circumstance and since all hurricanes, once they enter the center of the bathtub, grow worse, this one will be worse than worse. Wilma, for example, was a category 2 when she dipped her little toe in the tub. In less than 90 minutes, she shot upwards to a category 5. There is an upper limit to hurricane strength. But this is at a level that is so destructive, it really doesn't matter if the winds are 240 or 270 miles per hour, for example. Hurricane Andrew hit shore in Florida as a long series of tornadoes, for example. These were a lot faster than 200 mph, each.
In 2005, only two platforms produced more than 100,000 barrels a day; this summer, six are producing at that level or are preparing to do so. Since 2005, oil and gas production has increasingly shifted to deeper water off the coast of Louisiana, with a handful of giant platforms generating volumes once produced by dozens of small, shallow-water facilities.
The industry has had two relatively quiet hurricane seasons since the devastation caused by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005. The two hurricanes damaged 75% of offshore platforms and resulted in the shutting in of 103 million barrels of oil and 610 billion cubic feet of gas production, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
Drillers and producers have attempted to shore up their infrastructure to prevent similarly widespread damage from the next major hurricane to sweep through the Gulf of Mexico. But with Gustav projected to pass directly through the Gulf's main production zone early next week, potentially as a Category 4 hurricane, there are no guarantees. While the Gulf is layered with thousands of platforms and miles of pipeline, a handful are responsible for the bulk of production, and will be most closely watched in a storm.
"There are a lot of things in the industry that have improved since the '04 and '05 seasons, but at the end of the day, it's going to be a question of how destructive storms are and how powerful they are when they go through the Gulf," said David Dismukes, associate executive director of the Center for Energy Studies at Louisiana State University.
The oil riggers lead very dangerous lives, providing us with the fuel to tool around in cool cars. And the rigs offshore are far, far more expensive to build, run and manage than landward systems. So the oil companies do work hard to secure and protect these investments. But again: Mother Nature doesn't give a fig about this. She created this oil by being extremely nasty periodically and killing, crushing and then burying billions of tons of living things so we can tap them later and use them as fuel. If Mother Nature was a pleasant dame, we would have a lot less oil.
The global gold rush for more oil has been in the areas most vulnerable to weather depredations. This is a feature of the Hubbert Oil Peak. All the easy oil has been found. We now have to go to more and more challenging places to find less and less oil.
(CNN) -- Authorities began ordering mandatory evacuations along Louisiana and Mississippi's Gulf Coast on Saturday as Hurricane Gustav roared past Cuba and into the Gulf of Mexico. "They made it very clear that this storm could be as bad as it gets," Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal said Saturday afternoon of the Category 4 storm, with sustained winds that reached 150 mph. "We could see flooding even worse than we saw in Hurricane Katrina."
Thousands of people had begun fleeing the coast by the time a hurricane watch was issued Saturday afternoon for southeastern Texas to the Alabama-Florida border as Gustav pursued a projected path toward the U.S. Gulf Coast.
The watch, which means hurricane conditions are possible within 36 hours, was announced the day after many in the region marked the third anniversary of Katrina's landfall.
At 5 p.m. ET, the eye of Gustav was about 130 miles (210 km) east-northeast of Cuba's western tip and moving northwest about 15 mph.
I remember the Fall of 2005. The government thought Mother Nature was a great form of urban renewal. Killing, scattering or destroying the homes of the poor would fix New Orleans for the better. Then, they announced they wanted $250 billion to rebuild the joint. The Chinese said no so it wasn't rebuilt as fancy as the developers wanted. Now, we may see even more destruction. Certain cities in the past have been doomed by such forces. They can be rebuilt like in Indonesia. I wouldn't want to live where tsunamis can wipe everyone out with virtually no warning. But then, the biggest populations on earth are in these sorts of places like Bangladesh, for example.
Just like in California, building houses that can survive the fires and earthquakes there, the hurricane alley cities should have more research into how to build hurricane-proof homes and then enforce the codes that force people to build within this system. After all, if a roof is ripped off or a building torn from its foundations, it becomes a wrecking ball and destroys neighbor's homes. Rational building is an art we seem unable to want or practice.
CNN) -- Iraq has signed its first major oil deal with a foreign company since the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime, a spokesman for the Iraqi Oil Ministry said Saturday. It was the first time in more than 35 years that Iraq has allowed foreign oil companies to do business inside its borders.
The contract with the China National Petroleum Corporation could be worth up to $3 billion. It would allow the CNPC to develop an oil field in southern Iraq's Wasit province for about 20 years, Oil Ministry spokesman Assim Jihad said.
Iraq's Cabinet must still approve the contract, but Jihad said that would happen soon and work could start within a few months.
The Chinese company will provide technical advisers, oil workers and equipment to develop al-Ahdab oil field, providing fuel for al-Zubaidiya power plant in Wasit, southeast of Baghdad, bordering Iran, Jihad said.
China is buying oil systems and fields. The US can go begging to Iraq for oil to replace the lost Gulf of Mexico oil. But then, the US has the national reserves. I am betting this will be used. But if there is no rationing, it will all be a waste of time. If it means higher and higher profits for the oil companies, it will simply drain the economy further. Pumping it out to sell it to US consumers, if they are not serious about controlling our manic use of oil, it will be a waste.
The Chinese are rapidly bidding higher and higher and locking us out of more and more oil opportunities.
Britain's plans for a new generation of nuclear power stations will face a fierce challenge for skills and resources from countries keen to build their own, according to research published today.
China has plans for 24 nuclear plants and outline proposals for another 76, according to the Economic Research Council, using figures from the International Energy Agency and the IAEA.
"China's plans indicate its key role in new nuclear build, and the impact of just a small element of its projects being realised would have major implications for new nuclear build capacity — and the many constraints," according to the ERC.
The Chinese are on a roll, aren't they? Maybe if we can start a war with them. Like Europe and the US seem bent, doing this to Russia. Russia and China are forming an oil-power alliance of user and seller which is going about the planet, rapidly building a New Consensus. And this is all about them rationing the oil for dollars business. Namely, dollars decline in value as trade tokens while the power lies in the hands of the developers and political centers where there is enough muscle to ensure contracts. Namely, the nuclear powers of China and Russia, working in tandem.
NEVER did they do this in the past! Since 1955, Russia and China's rulers were at each other's throats. Mao even thought it a neat coup to haul in Nixon and make a deal the Russians hated! Today: Putin and Hu are on the same page, playing the same 'Ride of the Valkyries.' If the consumer nations like the US and most of Europe think they can bully either Russia or China, they are total fools. And these hurricanes will simply aggravate things even more. In favor of Russia and China.
The US basically has no nuclear power program. We barely have any alternative energy programs. We let years slip by while not forcing people to incorporate sane energy/power use systems that would cut down US energy consumption which is a good one third of our trade deficit.
Npower and ScottishPower yesterday became the last of Britain's big six energy suppliers to raise household bills, adding at least £162 a year to millions of customers' heating costs.
This year energy bills have had the biggest annual rise since the energy market was privatised. Npower, the UK's fourth-biggest energy group, is increasing gas prices by 26 per cent and electricity bills by 14 per cent.
From yesterday, the company's 6.6 million customers will pay an average £162 more each year for gas and an extra £60 for electricity. At the same time, ScottishPower has raised its gas bills by 34 per cent, the second largest rise, British Gas having increased its gas prices by 35 per cent last month.
ScottishPower also announced that it had increased its electricity prices by 9 per cent; that will come into effect on Monday. The company's 1.2 million customers will pay £221 more a year on gas and an extra £38 for electricity.
England is well on the downslope of the Hubbert Oil Peak. The North Sea rigs are producing much, much less than expected. They thought the downslope would be gentle. Instead, it is very steep. This shows us that once the summit of oil production in any field is reached, the decline is totally unpredictable. England partied while the oil flowed. Now, the poor people there, deep in debt to the exact same degree and for the identical reasons the US public is deep in debt, now they have to pay through the nose for energy. People will die. The government will be pixilated. 'Hey, we joined the US in invading Iraq for the umpteenth time in the last 100 years and the CHINESE get the oil????' screams the dying Lion to the lounge lizard unicorn.
England still pulls the rags of its imperial ermine robes about its fleabitten shoulders and huffs. After all, they have hitched a one hundred year's ride on the coattails of the American empire. Why shouldn't they just invade Burma, the Middle East, Africa or any nation and just STEAL stuff? Attack China and loot the palaces there. Yes, this is the dark dreams that cause the Brits to flop about at night as they worry about how to pay the heating bills. For alas, Russia and China have nuclear bombs.
Centrica is being barred by the government from making a solo bid for British Energy, according to one of the nuclear generator's largest institutional shareholders.
The shareholder, who spoke on condition of anonymity, also questioned why preferred bidder EDF retains the 'irrational total support' of the government.
He said that a merger with Centrica to create a British champion would be better for shareholders because they could get a higher price and retain shares in the combined entity. 'But Centrica is unable to do a deal because the government is discouraging it,' he added.
Centrica plc, trading as British Gas (and as Scottish Gas in Scotland) is market leader in the supply of energy to UK households. In recent years the UK wholesale energy market has become more volatile, leading to increasing energy prices. Consequently the core residential energy business of British Gas has been running at a loss according to results released by parent, Centrica plc.
To help to manage price volatility, Centrica announced a variety of investments in new sources of supply that may help wholesale prices to come down in the future. During 2005, the company estimated that nearly £600 million was spent on new gas, power and renewable energy assets, with a further £400 million committed to help import more gas into the country. Since 40% of electricity is generated by gas-powered stations, this investment was predicted to reduce the cost of electricity. In parallel, British Gas announced in July 2006 that they intend to improve customer service.
By early 2007 market reports suggested that UK wholesale energy prices had stabilised and started to fall. In March 2007 British Gas (and Scottish Gas) implemented the first price reductions in the UK residential energy market for six years, a move followed by other major energy suppliers. . In late April 2007 British Gas again reduced prices, highlighting that some competitors had yet to reduce prices in 2007. Having suffered heavy losses of customers as prices were rising, British Gas claimed that the new environment of falling prices would allow them to grow their customer base. .
Meanwhile, the EU is investigating alleged malpractice in the wholesale market for gas and electricity supply across Europe. Allegations include the suggestion that gas supplies to the UK are restricted, contributing to increases in the wholesale price of gas in the UK. The conclusions of a competition inquiry into the EU energy sector were published in December 2006.
The draft conclusions, published in February 2006, confirmed fears by Brussels that former state monopolies in the major European markets (though not in the UK) were keeping a stranglehold on home markets, allowing them to control pricing - against the interests of consumers. Competition commissioner Neelie Kroes criticised excessive concentration in what she said reflects the "old market structure of national or regional monopolies".
The EU is flopping about, trying desperately to bring down prices. They have to snag someone besides the very irritable, intelligent and well-connected Putin of Russia. The attempt at scaring him simply made him mad enough to stomp on everyone's toes and threaten to wipe out half of Europe. Ooops. Well, demonizing him may be fun but it won't keep energy prices cheap.
The hedges set up to 'make energy cheaper' are like planting privet hedges to stop a category five hurricane from smashing into your beach cottage. Hedges work only if there is peace and plenty. When things go haywire, there is no protections from Reality. For Reality is Mother Nature and She says, 'I don't care what stupid things people say and do, there are strict limits to oil production. Even thought oil is Death Incarnate, it is limited. Death, on the other hand, it limitless. It is eternal and total.'
The whining from commissioner Neelie Kroes is childish. She sounds like a teenager who thinks mom's purse is a bottomless fund system. She thinks that the 'old market structure' is excessive? HAHAHA. Welcome to reality, ain't she a bitch!
The EU clowns all think that the whole planet will become a confederation whereby everyone joins each other in doing what? Exploiting the Middle East by using the US military that is going bankrupt! And so they scold REAL countries who have REAL power. Snits who stick their noses in the air and grandly announce that mere countries dare not stop the confederation in setting economic rules! HAHAHA. China and Russia will make Europe eat dirt, first. If the Europeans were slightly smarter, they would look in the mirror. 'Oh my god! We started WWI and WWII! Wow! We are BAD GUYS!'
But rulers are as allergic to looking in mental mirrors as vampires.