May 12, 2010

NUMBER OF THE DAY: 1,500 KILOGRAM PER SQUARE CM


When people think about oil platforms, they mostly conjure up those old-type platforms that we all still know from 1970s movies like Roger Moore's delightfully bad romp North Sea Hijack (which I urge everyone to take a look at): relatively simple constructs that reach down maybe 150 metres into the Atlantic.

Well, that ain't what we are dealing with "platforms" like the Deepwater Horizon. You know... that thing that causes all kinds of trouble right now.

See, the Deepwater Horizon is nothing more than a giant boat floating on the water surface, its pipelines are reaching deep, deep into the ocean. In her case roughly 1,500 metres deep. There they start drilling into the earth's crust, often an additional 2,000 or 3,000 metres before they reach the oil.

The pressure down there is... well, let me put it this way. Outer space is a cakewalk opposed to going this deep underwater, because in outer space all you have to worry about is zero pressue. In short, in space nobody can hear you scream, but this deep underwater you don't have the ability to even open your mouth before the pressure crushes you like a bug.

Where the oil comes out of the earth's crust, the pressure is a resounding 1,500 kg/sqcm. That's an entire middle class car weighing down on a space of 1cm x 1cm. The oil there comes up with that enormous pressure and a temperature of at least 100 degrees celsius. Make one mistake, just one, and it will literally explode on your ass.

And gues what? That's the mistake they made.

Have they learned something from it?

No.

Why?

As this very well researched article (I checked it against other articles) in Der Spiegel (from which I took the above picture) points out, it's because companies like BP are beginning to get cut off from the land-based oil fields, more and more under control of national utility companies like Gazprom. And so they take unforgiveable risks to gain access to oil that shouldn't be touched.

The reason they touch it anyway, in that dirty uncle kind of way? When it costs them between 35 and 65 US dollars per barrel to get it?

That's the second number of the day. It appears we have already reached what scientists call peak oil. The daily "production" has not gone up from 85 million barrels/day in the past five years. Let me point this out again. Despite "drill, baby, drill"... the daily production has not been able to pass that 85 million barrel/day mark.

And so, extrapolating into a future where oil prices will indubitably go up to 110 to 130 US dollars per barrel... having to pay 35 to 65 US dollars to get it out of the ground? Sounds like a pretty sweet deal. We're talking a potential profit margin of up to 300 percent!

And if you only care about profit, it's a no-brainer.

However, remember that 1,500 kg/sqcm. And that one mistake. That they didn't even plan for. It's the economic equvialent of a Hail Mary to start drilling in deep water, and soundly irreponsible.

Will they do it again?

Indubitably.

Will Obama allow them to do it?

Without a doubt.

Even though in the short and medium term, these highly dangerous drilling operations account for only one percent (1 %) of daily oil production world-wide. In other words, it is not necessary to drill there. It's expensive. It's dangerous. and it only benefits oil companies if and when their extrapolations into the future markets come true.

And no accidents happen, no mistakes are made.

How some Americans are so fucking afraid of a guy exploding underwear on a plane, and at the same time are so blissfuly stupid to the dangers of this business operation right here is beyond me.