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BP Fought Safety Measures at Deepwater Oil Rigs

BP, the company that owned the Louisiana oil rig that exploded last week, spent years battling federal regulators over how many layers of safeguards would be needed to prevent a deepwater well from this type of accident.

One area of immediate concern, industry experts said, was the lack of a remote system that would have allowed workers to clamp shut Deepwater Horizon’s wellhead so it would not continue to gush oil. The rig is now spilling 210,000 gallons of oil a day into the Gulf of Mexico.

In a letter sent last year to the Department of the Interior, BP objected to what it called “extensive, prescriptive regulations” proposed in new rules to toughen safety standards. “We believe industry’s current safety and environmental statistics demonstrate that the voluntary programs…continue to be very successful.”

That was one in a series of clashes between the industry and federal regulators that began during the Clinton administration. In 2000, the federal agency that oversaw oil rig safety issued a safety alert that called added layers of backup “an essential component of a deepwater drilling system.” The agency said operators were expected to have multiple layers of protection to prevent a spill…
(30 April 2010)

Toyota’s Bill Reinert on Peak Oil

kalpa, Financial News Express
I was fortunate to have the opportunity to hear University of Colorado graduate Bill Reinert speak at last week’s 62nd Annual Conference on World Affairs at CU. Reinert is the national manager of advanced technology for Toyota Motor Sales, USA. His primary function is to coordinate Toyota’s various research, development, and marketing activities related to alternative fueled vehicles and emerging technologies. Before taking over Toyota’s North American fuel cell efforts, Reinert and his team were responsible for product planning of the current generation Prius.

Since I have been following the subject of peak oil fairly closely for a number of years I found this talk to be surprisingly, refreshingly, and frighteningly candid, as I’d categorize this brilliant man as an overall “doomer” after listening to his presentation and his answers to audience questions about the timing of peak oil and prospects for alternative energies. He stated that Toyota has researched and understands peak oil as well as anybody. To follow, is my summary of his talk.

“Everything you know is wrong”
by Bill Reinert – April 6, 2010

“People drive an amount equivalent to their dispensable income.”

Demand destruction
Reinert expects gasoline demand destruction to hit at about $6/gallon. At $3.50/gallon behavior begins to change, and even more so at $4.20/gallon. When the price of gas went up in 2008 Prius sales increased as much as SUV sales declined and then when it went back down, SUV sales increased even more.

Peak Oil
He said we are at or near “peak oil,” and that it will hit the second half of this decade. At Toyota they don’t discuss peak oil, they discuss peak liquid fuels. A half barrel of oil goes towards the production of gasoline.

  • In 2015-20 demand starts to exceed supply.
  • OECD has peaked and is in decline.
  • In ’09 USSR production started declining which has geopolitical implications.
  • The lowest cost-to-produce oil is in the Middle East (at $13-30/barrel. They manage their fields better than we do.)
  • Of the above, Iraq & Saudi are the two biggest and stablest areas of production.
  • Our U.S. oil is some of the most expensive to produce ($60/barrel and we run our fields to exhaustion).
  • OPEC and Iraq won’t meet India, China, and Brazil’s demands.
  • If we don’t buy the oil produced, somebody else will.

(16 April 2010)

How Bad Is the Oil Spill? Ask the Pelicans

John W. Fitzpatrick,
As a professional ornithologist, I am called to ponder the calamity now gushing forth in the Gulf of Mexico. Its most unnerving feature is that we cannot begin to estimate how far-reaching its biological effects will be, let alone the scale of its economic impacts. The most essential facts are still emerging, and changing, each day. How much oil eventually will be released into the high seas? How far away will the havoc of this expanding oil spill be reached? How many hundreds — or thousands — of miles of coastline will be affected? How many oyster beds, sperm whale pods, bluefin tuna spawning beds, sea turtle beaches, and bird colonies will fall victim? Can we ever measure accurately the accumulated effects of this disaster on commercial fishing, and tourism, and human happiness?

Amidst these uncertainties, some essential facts are important to bear in mind. The Gulf of Mexico teems with life all year, and especially during spring days and nights when hundreds of millions of birds migrate northward across it. A large proportion of these will stop to replenish themselves at the very shorelines likely to be blackened by oil over the coming weeks. News reports already feature hopelessly oiled birds being rushed to soapy “rescues,” but let’s not fool ourselves. The biology of birds tarred at sea by crude oil is well known – most will die, even among those few that are found and given a reprieve by well-meaning nature lovers. Birds are tough creatures when it comes to facing natural hazards – after all, those that could not survive storms, droughts, floods, and fires through the millennia have long since died out without leaving descendants. But birds were never built to handle environmental onslaughts of the scale we humans have thrown at them. In the 1800s we exploited some of them to extinction. In the 1900s we ransacked their habitats with wholesale conversion and industrial pollutants. Now, in the 21st century, we confront birds with burgeoning oil spews of unprecedented scale directly at the peak, and dead-center in the pathway, of their annual migration. Depending on wind directions over the coming weeks, breeding birds of Gulf Coast marshes and estuaries could end up paying the biggest price of all…
(4 May 2010)

Asean members try to forge agreement on oil and gas rich Spratly Islands
Tim Daiss, Energy Bulletin
China has been seeking bilateral agreements with individual Asean members (the Association of Southeast Asian Nations) on oil exploration projects in the resource rich but hotly contested Spratly Islands in the South China Sea. In April, meeting in Hanoi, Vietnam for their annual meeting, Asean members agreed to only negotiate as one body to avoid being placed in a weakened bargaining position with stronger-China.

At the sidelines of the summit, Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo attended bilateral talks with Malaysian Primer Minister Dato’ Sri Mohd Najib bin Tun Abdul Razak and Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung, where the Philippine president expressed hope that Vietnam, Malaysia and the Philippines could negotiate a solution to the territorial dispute in the oil and gas rich Spratly Islands.

The Spratly Islands consist of more than 100 small islands or reefs in the South China Sea between the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei, Vietnam and China. They are surrounded by oil and gas deposits.

The islands are claimed in their entirety by China, Taiwan and Vietnam, while portions are claimed by Malaysia and the Philippines. Brunei too threw its hat in the ring, by claiming a fishing zone that extends to incorporate one of the Spratly Islands.

Approximately 45 of these islands are garrisoned by small numbers of military troops from the claimant nations: China, Malaysia, Taiwan, Vietnam and the Philippines respectively.

Chinese estimates of oil and gas reserves, considered inflated by most experts, and spurring considerable competition in the area, place potential oil reserves (not proven reserves) of the Spratly’s as high as 105 billion barrels of oil.

However, a 1993-94 estimate by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) places the sum total of discovered resources and undiscovered resources in the offshore basins of the South China Sea at 28 billion barrels of oil.

Natural gas, according to the USGS, is more abundant in this area than oil. USGS estimates indicate that about 60% – 70% of the area’s hydrocarbon resources are gas.

At the Asean summit the Philippines also urged China and Asean members to enter into a joint agreement to facilitate private sector investments in the area and to continue to address legal and sovereignty issues between claimant countries.

Historically, the area has been ripe for conflict. In 1988, 80 Vietnamese sailors died in a battle with Chinese forces in the area. Last August and October, China seized several Vietnamese fishing boats and their crews when they tried to shelter in the nearby Paracel Islands, just north of the Spratlys, during storms.

In the days leading up to the summit, the area remained problematic between competing nations, particularly since several claims overlap. On Feb. 2, a Vietnamese fishing boat owner reported that a Chinese patrol had stopped and boarded his boat and seized 500 kilograms of fish and equipment.

And finally, on March 22, Chinese naval forces seized a Vietnamese fishing boat in the area and held both boat and crew for several days, sparking vehement protest from Vietnam.
(2X April 2010)
from the author Timothy Daiss:
I am an American journalist that now lives in Manila, Philippines. I have worked for the Shanghai-based Xinmin Weekly, as well as Philippine Now I work as a stringer or correspondent for several publications covering Southeast Asia.

Track the Gulf of Mexico oil spill movement in animated graphic

Dan Swenson, Times Picayune
This animation of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill was created using actual overflight information and forecast models from the NOAA and Unified Command.

The red dot is the location of the Deepwater Horizon oil well, which exploded on April 20, releasing oil into the Gulf near the Louisiana coast that has yet to be contained. Eleven rig workers died in the explosion.

The animation begins April 22, the day the first image of the spill via flyover was released.

(2 May 2010)

Response options for BP oil spill
Rick Munroe, Energy Bulletin
As far as I am aware, there are three main response options to stem the oil spill (in addition to persisting with the existing and apparently faulty blow-out protector).

1. Relief wells
Transocean already has one rig in place to start drilling a relief well. Operations were due to start today but were delayed by the weather.

A second Transocean rig is also on its way to drill a second relief well… I don’t know if this is intended to further reduce the pressure or just in case something should go wrong with the first relief well.

This option seems fairly certain but will require 60-90 days to complete.

2. Installing a new BOP
One idea is to cut off the broken riser and insert a second blow-out protector (BOP) above the first BOP.

This appears to be risky because if it fails, the flow would probably increase thorough the then nicely-sheared riser.

This option could probably be attempted in a matter of days.

3. Containment domes/cofferdams
Three containment domes/cofferdams are being constructed and could be ready to install in a week or so, with apparently little risk.

All three of these options are outlined in this recent Upstream Online posting:

Further analysis of the ongoing predicament and a photo of the proposed cofferdam is available here:

(The photo is near the bottom of the discussion postings.)

If someone can figure out how to stop this thing, they will surely deserve a medal of the highest order….
(2 May 2010)