Thursday, July 1, 2010

Update from Dave

Methane gas which is frozen in water ice (Methane hydrate)is a common phenomenon in most cold ocean basins. It is stable under the temperatures and pressures under which it forms. 
Geologically, when global sea level falls, prssure decreases and some of the gas is released as bubbles. It represents the greatest supply of natural gas yet found, but no ones knows how to capture the gas economically yet. 
There is some evidence on the Norwegian shelf of the gas triggering landslides and possibly a Tsunamis,but this is not going to happen a mile below the Gulf. There certainly is no volcanic caldera in the Gulf and the only crater was caused by the meterorite impact which probably killed off the dinosaurs. This well will be plugged within the next few months and the Gulf of Mexico will not explode. Then we can deal with the aftermath of the millions of gallons of poison dispersants they have been using. For more facts not fiction about the BP oil spill and Armageddon-NOT - but an environmental disaster which is destroying the local economy and the lives of individuals.
These should remain the focus of our concern. 

Monday, June 28, 2010

BP, Oilspills and Storms: For Better or Worse

Just when you think you’ve put out all the Armageddon brush fires for awhile along comes “The Coming Gulf Coast Firestorm: How the BP oil catastrophe could destroy a major U.S. city.” This Natural News blog for Saturday June 26, 2010 is available at In this doomsday firestorm scenario the author suggests:
The hurricane makes landfall in New Orleans, let's say, dumping potentially hundreds of thousands of gallons of what is essentially "volatile fuel" on the city of New Orleans. Now, at first it's just a wet, slippery toxic mess that kills trees and grass. But what happens after the storm when the sun dries out the city?

All the dead trees killed by the oil turn into kindling. The sun evaporates off the rain water, leaving behind fuel. A few days of sun baking and you have a city doused in fuel, ready to burst into flames. It's every fireman's worst nightmare. The whole city is essentially turned into a giant match.

Now, sure, the more volatile fuels might evaporate, but as they do, they'd fill the city with explosive fumes. One spark, one fire, one lightning strike and your whole city literally goes up in flames. The BP oil spill, in other words, provides the fuel that could turn an ordinary hurricane into Mother Nature's arson attack on an entire city.

Like a nuclear bomb

This would not be an ordinary city on fire, either: It would be a city doused with volatile fuels that soaked it to the core. The sewers would explode like massive terrorist bombs, ripping to shred any underground infrastructure (fiber optics, water delivery, electrical infrastructure, etc.). The pavement itself would be on fire, as would parks, grasslands and forests. The city would burn from top to bottom, and there would be no point even trying to put out the flames. All we could do is evacuate and watch it all burn to the ground.

And in the aftermath, you'd still have oil covering the beaches, oil in the ocean, and the threat of more firestorms yet to come. It could be just the first of many such incidents striking the Gulf Coast.
Far be it for me to argue with Mike Adams, the self-proclaimed Health Ranger, but perhaps I can offer a little historical perspective.

Santa Barbara Oil Spill 1969 

I remember that January 1969 was a particularly wet winter for Los Angeles with some fairly strong winds. According to Wikipedia:
"A record-breaking storm immediately before the incident [January 28, 2009] contributed to the large amount of oiled debris that needed to be collected as part of the spill response…Weather during the cleanup was moderate except for a storm on February 4 and 5 that temporarily halted cleanup by damaging booms that were protecting harbors and marinas. The majority of the cleanup was completed within 45 days."

IXTOC 1- 1979 [Excerpt from H2OIL COVERUP, soon to be released]

Fortunately, in mid September a storm passed through the Gulf cleaning the beaches and leaving mainly tar mats. Afterwards, cleanup efforts were focused on the Barrier Islands, which had been washed over with oil during the storm. Eventually, workers had to resort to shovel and rakes because the heavy equipment removed too much sand. The oiled material that was removed amounted to over 10,000 cubic yards.
Indonesia - Malaysia 1990’s

I was based in Kuala Lumpur from 1990 to 1996. The Straits of Malacca are known to be one of the most oil-polluted water bodies on earth. I can personally attest to the tar balls and oil slicks which regularly coated the beaches on the west coast of the peninsula. Monsoons are annual events, but I never saw or heard of any black or oily rain falling on the coast or in the interior.

Thailand – 1989

Shortly before I arrived in Southeast Asia, Typhoon Gay struck the Unocal Platong Gas Field in the Gulf of Thailand. The Seacrest drillship capsized and 91 of the 97 man crew perished. It formed so suddenly and with such intensity that no distress signals were heard and no lifeboats were ever found. The storm reached wind speeds of 100 knots (115 miles per hour) the worst storm to hit the Malay Peninsula in nearly 3 decades. Two hundred fishing boats were lost and 600 fishermen were reported missing. More than 400 people lost their lives when the storm tracked across Thailand. It eventually hit a sparsely populated area on the east coast of India as a Category 5 cyclone killing 39 people. Several platforms were damaged and there was leakage of both oil and gas, but there were no fires and no reports of aerial pollution.

So, it remains to be seen whether a storm in the Gulf of Mexico will make things worse or (temporarily) help to clean things up. While anyone can conjure up any type of fear-based catastrophe they choose, it is good to at least have some basis in fact or historical precedent. Otherwise, all you have is a plot for another sensationalist, movie which exploits the fears of the true Gulf Coast victims of this terrible tragedy.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

BP ARMAGEDDON – NOT! Debunking Hysteria

As a geologist, I’ve always been fascinated by doomsday scenarios. I’ve imagined the earth being destroyed by meteorite impact, by nuclear winter and by shifts in the earth and moons magnetic fields. As a sci-fi fanatic, I’ve watched every 2012, left behind, destroyed by monsters, aliens and volcanoes, end-of-the-world, cheesy B-movie you can name. But, until recently, I never gave any thought to the crazy notion that an out of control oil well would be our planet’s undoing. 

I guess I’m one of the few sane people left because a Google search now turns up about a million references to BP Armageddon and the Armageddon Online website is certain to soon add the BP- well to its poll of most likely mega- disasters. So after spending 30 years in the oil business, let me tell you why this particular environmental catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico is not going to bring it all to an end. 

First off, blowouts are not nearly as uncommon as people would like to think. The oil companies, (BP in particular) would like you to believe that these events are very rare and every action to control them is unprecedented. This is not the case.

In fact, Red Adair, the greatest wildwell fighter that ever lived, used to say that somewhere in the world there was always a well which needed to be tamed. He proved it by not only charging more than a million dollars (in the 1970’s) for his company to look at a blowout, but he sometimes had as many as 5 wells working at the same time in different regions. When Saddam Hussein invaded the Kuwaiti oil fields in 1991, the Iraqis set fire to more than 700 oil wells. Red and his team extinguished and capped over 100 of these wells in 9 months while the other 24 teams controlled the rest. When Red Adair died in 2004 at the ripe old age of 89, it is estimated that he had fought over 1000 blowouts in his lifetime. None of these blowouts or the pollution that followed brought the world to an end. You are now saying to yourself, “Yeah, but this one is different.”
No, it is not. Once you delete the shallow wells and the development wells in known fields, you are still left with a few hundred critical operations due to high pressures, great depth or impossible conditions. Does that sound to you like what we are facing in the Gulf? It should. 

It’s a good bet that at least some of those 100 will get out of control. 

The Minerals Management Service (MMS) studied offshore blowouts in the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) between 1992 and 2006. They found 39 blowouts out of over 15,000 wells drilled. MMS used that statistic to justify excluding BP and other operators from an Environmental Impact Assessment requirement for deepwater wells drilled in the Gulf, asserting the rate was too low to be significant. This carefully manufactured blow out rate, clearly, was not a good reason to exclude BP and similar companies from regulatory intervention. It should be remembered this is the same MMS who were exposed as engaging in sex, drugs, payoffs, prostitution, and other various offenses while, supposedly, creating the above exception. At the same time they exempted Fifty Billion Dollars of royalties, which should have been paid to the government for our use.

Only 1/3 of the original 15,000 wells were exploration wildcats, so that is about 1 blowout in 100 wildcats. Those are not good odds given the risk of an environmental catastrophe of this magnitude. 

Additionally, World Oil published a database of 1200 blowouts in the Gulf between 1960 and 1996. That is equal to 33 blowouts per year in the Gulf Coast and we’re still here.

I know you’re probably thinking, “What about all the horrendous stories I’ve been hearing about the BP Deepwater Horizon well in particular?” Most of them are sheer nonsense. Now, the Facts instead of Myths, or disinformation, which ever you prefer. 

First, although BP’s well is drilled in deepwater, it is not the deepest The record water depth for the deepest oil well was set by Shell at 9356 feet at the Perdido development in the Gulf in 2008. As for total depth, the well is only about 18,300 feet and I have drilled a couple wells to that depth myself without major problems. The deepest hole ever drilled went to 40,230 feet and was drilled by the Russians for scientific purposes. The deepest oil well was 35,055 feet (nearly twice as deep as the current BP blowout); drilled, ironically, by BP using the Deepwater Horizon rig in 2009.

  • “So what happens if the pressure builds and the blowout preventer (BOP) blows apart?” This already happened in 1979 with the Mexican well Ixtoc 1 and they were still able to control it with two relief wells. In Australia, last year a well blew out with no BOP and they still controlled it with a relief well after 5 attempts. As for reservoir pressure, the scare-mongers throw out terms like 40,000 – 70,000 psi. If that were true then the well would have blown out when the reservoir was first penetrated months ago and it is doubtful that the overburden of sediments could have contained it for millions of years. In reality, they drilled into the formation with 14 pounds per gallon mud weight (about twice the density of seawater) corresponding to about 11,000 psi and this is the reservoir pressure that BP testified to under oath. I have been on numerous over pressured wells which required 18 pounds per gallon mud weight and I have heard that it is possible to add the mineral galena (mostly lead) to bring the mud weight even higher. BP is lying about there being no precedent. The government is letting them get away with it.

  • “I heard the casing could collapse and this well could blow for 10 years.” No. The casing collapsed in the Ixtoc 1 well and they brought it under control in 9 months. Casings frequently collapse during a blowout, so it is standard operating procedure to assume this might be a problem and is planned for in most cases. It is probable that part of the casing has already collapsed in the BP well, but as long as the relief wells intersect the hole near the reservoir they should still be able to bring it under control. As for billions of barrels of oil flowing up into the Gulf for decades, it is helpful to know that the producing interval is probably only about 60 feet thick. I have seen some of the subsurface seismic imaging in this area and it not a world class structure, so the entire reservoir is likely only capable of producing about 50 million barrels of oil, still an environmental disaster but not to the degree reported. 

  • “The earth could crack open and sea water could rush in and turn to steam and blow the planet apart.” This one is so far-fetched they couldn’t even use it for the plot of a B-movie. If you believe this insanity I’ve got some beachfront property in Colorado I could sell you. The earth is already cracked open. It’s called the Mid-Atlantic ridge and similar plate tectonic boundaries cover the entire globe. Magma comes up and pushes the plates apart, but seawater definitely doesn’t rush into the cracks. By the way, there is no active plate boundary in the Gulf of Mexico and there is certainly no danger of magma welling up beneath 50,000 + feet of sediments.”

  • “What if an underground blowout occurs and oil starts gushing up from dozens of places miles from the well.” This is certainly a possibility and that is what happened with the Union Oil of California Santa Barbara blowout in 1969. While I was working for UNOCAL, reports varied about how far away the faults were which broke through to the seafloor causing months of oil leaks. The Ixtoc 1 well also leaked around the wellhead. The point is that both of these blowouts were controlled by pumping heavy mud at a high enough rate to counter the reservoir pressure. The multiple leaks rumor is fed by Matt Simmons, (author of numerous works dealing with Peak Oil). He is now in a situation where he profits the more the value of BP stock falls. As always, there is the mysterious Russian underground source, who claims they have seen these other leaks up close and personal. But where is the proof? Always demand to see the proof.
All of these outrageous rumors lead to the inevitable conclusion that we should Nuke this well and this is where the fun stops. A nuclear detonation even a “controlled” bomb could have so many unforeseen consequences that it should not even be considered. For one thing, the sediments are unconsolidated down to at least a thousand feet, so it would be like tossing a boulder into a mud puddle. Not only would it splatter everywhere, but it would be impossible to contain the radioactive materials. These radioisotopes could contaminate the submarine region and expose marine life to harmful and possibly fatal radiation. Nothing would be closed (certainly not the casing) and a crater would be opened which could trigger landslides and sediment flows along the slope. 

Finally, there are the serious issues of the level of methane gas coming from the well and the amount of dispersants (close to 1.5 million gallons so far) which BP is using to mask the oil. This was not so much of a problem with the Ixtoc 1 well because they just let the gas burn off at the surface. BP has chosen to flare about 30 million cubic feet of gas per day recovered in their containment system, but an unknown amount of gas is still being dissolved in the water column. The methane gas, the dispersants and the oil all can deplete oxygen in parts of the Gulf. This is likely to be the real disaster scenario for the Gulf over the coming years. 

For your Myth of the Moment dispersal send it to me for treatment: davelinc (at) aol (dot) com

For more on the real threats from the BP Blowout in the Gulf check out my new e-Book “H2OIL COVERUP” (coming soon).

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Book, and staying on fact.

This book is the insider’s view of how the oil industry has betrayed our trust, misusing and leaving toxic the land and water resources of North America. The source of this untold story is a geologist turned environmentalist with over 30 years experience in the oil and gas industry. During his career he witnessed the Santa Barbara oil well blowout and spill in 1969, also drilling wells in South Texas in 1979 when the IXTOC 1 Mexican blowout, largest in history, gushed oil onto Texas beaches.
His insights provide the facts needed to understand the causes of these disasters. As the book unfolds you trace the uncanny similarities between these wells and BP’s latest catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico.
Lincoln was born in the shadow of the oil derricks in Los Angeles. At age 17 Mr. Lincoln was recruited by UNOCAL to shore up the image of the then most hated company in the U.S. after they fouled the beaches of Santa Barbara. Part of Lincoln's hometown eventually became a superfund site of toxic oily waste and his first job site became a toxic waste no-man’s-land where farmers are prohibited by law from planting food crops.
He grew up feeling the earthquakes, most likely triggered by rapid subsidence due to the withdrawal of oil gas and water from those same oil fields.
At age 20 Lincoln found himself alone on an offshore platform operating 35 producing wells in 150 feet of water while struggling to keep oil off the coast of Huntington Beach, California. Later, he worked the oilfields at the mouth of the Mississippi River, watching as the oil companies turned the wetlands into Swiss cheese for their dredged drilling canals. His twelve years as a well-site geologist and manager in the Gulf Coast gave him a unique perspective on the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster.
Join him in a personal journey traveling from one oiled landscape and seascape to the next, leading inevitably to the biggest U.S. environmental disaster of our time.
Lincoln asks the tough questions and provides some surprising solutions based on his knowledge of how the oil industry really operates behind the scenes. Along the way, he reveals the truth about BP’s other disasters in Texas and Alaska and shows how BP operated like a teenager with their first car. Both, he argues take too many chances, blaming everyone else when the accident happens; both deserve to lose their operator’s license.
Disgusted with the oil industry Lincoln turned his back on promises of life long benefits in 1996, returning to the US to work for Greenpeace.
Through case histories and personal experiences he goes behind the facade of the optimistic projections to reveal the actual risks the oil companies routinely take with your health and your heritage. The three-ring circus BP ran for the media’s attention and the public’s entertainment is exposed as a sham to divert people from the real dangers below.
The authors probe beneath the surface of the decision to use dispersants, detailing not only the financial ties, but the real risks of using these two poisons indiscriminately. The outcome, they warn, will be even larger dead zones in the Gulf of Mexico.
In this book you see for the first time close-up, satellite images of the devastation the oil industry leaves in its wake. Learn the ground truthing. Punch up the coordinates on Google Earth and explore for yourself BP's true legacy. It puts an end to industry propaganda and exposes the lies for all to see.
H2Oil Cover-up exposes the toxic effects of oil and Produced Water, the dirty little secret of the oil and gas industry did not want you to know about. In the U.S. Alone, this stream of toxic waste generates at least 30 million barrels of oily Produced Water waste per day from nearly 1 million wells. Roughly 1000 times more pollution than the BP Blowout (est. 30,000 barrels of oil per day.)
It was happening before your eyes and you did not know.
We are losing more than you ever imagined. If the Gulf teaches us anything it will be that the environment is one asset we can't afford to lose. Read the book, it is your lifeline to environmental sanity.