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This article is circulating among the anti-peak oil crowds. To me, the bigger story is about the left’s environmental heroine, Sally Jewell, who used to frack wells. As new head of the Dept. of Interior, she will (with Obama’s encouragement) - will - allow aggressive fracking on more public lands, possibly much more in our National Parks. To forgiving environmentalists, she’s Obama’s replacement for the DOI and former CEO of REI.

We’re looking into how changes in ocean currents (e.g., thermohaline circulation) could impact existing oil pipelines on the ocean floor. The concern is that untrenched (exposed) lines and subsea systems (see engineering image, above) are underprepared for future turbulence, among other things.

The above “pipelay” ships are designed for one task - to weld and deliver various sized pipes onto the ocean floor. Most pipelines are connected to a series of special drills and platforms (see second image above) and are located in shallow water. And many lines are buried under the seabed by special trench digger robots (funtrue!). But some lines are in very deep oceans, and currents could be messing with their stability due to shifting ocean currents. 

As I was researching and answering reader mail (hello AK!), I got sidetracked to how some recent lines were originally designed and built. There are only a few specialized ships that handle the deepwater lines, so those are what I’m most interested in.

The first ship, above, is called the Solitaire. It’s massive. Built in 1998, and at 980 feet long(!), it’s among the largest pipelay ships on the planet! It’s also one of the most productive.

Here’s a video of how how Solitaire works! The first couple of minutes is an animated overview of the process. The next segment is live coverage of the inner workings. You can see workers, machines, and robots weld and piece the pipes together. The pipe is welded and ‘fed’ onto a spool that delivers the pipe onto the floor. It is amazing to see how flexible these pipes are. Really amazing stuff.

Do you want to read about these ships? If so, click here (careful, it is a huge, browser crushing PDF). It’s a poster describing 60 different pipely ships. It describes their owners, capacities, lay methods, and depths.

Yep, this is how I’m spending my Saturday night…

The number of deepwater semisubmersibles and drillships working in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico could rise to 52 in June 2014 and 54 in December 2014 if all of the deepwater rigs currently under contract remain so  according to data from Rigzone’s RigLogix database.

Several of these drillers are foreign oil companies. And many of the permits were fast-tracked by the Obama administration.

In 1980, Lake Peigneu, Louisiana disappeared into an underground vortex of doom. Actually, the accident was due to a math error, which resulted in one of the strangest oil drilling and salt mining accidents in U.S. history.

The Diamond Salt company had a huge salt mining operation under the lake. Meanwhile, Texaco Oil was drilling for oil from shallow platforms, which were built on the lake. Texaco roughnecks set a new drill a few hundred feet down, through the lake, through the lake bed, and into the earth. The drill bit hit one of the salt mine shafts, and the above disaster happened.

Just when you think it couldn’t possibly get worse, it does. The entire lake was sucked into the mine. The drill hole was originally 14 inches, but the force of the water expanded it to hundreds of feet across. At one point, a reverse water fall of 150 feet was formed because the Gulf of Mexico drained backwards (north!) into the lake. Watch the event unfold disaster on top of disaster. It is incredible. Via BoingBoing.

Nanos Research conducted the poll and they’re pretty legit. Via WSJ.

For background, check out my Keystone XL Pipeline and Oil tags.

You can read the EPA’s letter, here. Via LATimes

For background, check out my Keystone XL Pipeline and Oil tags.

It will be approved. Nearly half of the line is already built, the land from Canada to Texas is already secured, Sec. State John Kerry signaled his support, and redstate politicians are salivating for a knockout punch to the environmental movement.

RI Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (whom I interviewed back in 2005) predicts the approval will be wrapped in green packaging. He thinks Keystone approval will be surrounded by “a whole formidable array of environmental and anti-carbon measures that can not just offset the harm that they do by approving [Keystone] … but actually turn the whole package into a very strong, anti-carbon pollution suite of strategies.”



On April 12, 2013, Sally Jewell was sworn in as the 51st Secretary of the Interior.

In nominating Jewell, President Obama said, “She is an expert on the energy and climate issues that are going to shape our future.  She is committed to building our nation-to-nation relationship with Indian Country.  She knows the link between conservation and good jobs.  She knows that there’s no contradiction between being good stewards of the land and our economic progress; that in fact, those two things need to go hand in hand.” 

As Secretary of the Interior, Jewell leads an agency with more than 70,000 employees. Interior serves as steward for approximately 20 percent of the nation’s lands, including national parks, national wildlife refuges, and other public lands; oversees the responsible development of conventional and renewable energy supplies on public lands and waters; is the largest supplier and manager of water in the 17 Western states; and upholds trust responsibilities to the 566 federally recognized American Indian tribes and Alaska Natives.

Prior to her confirmation, Jewell served in the private sector, most recently as President and Chief Executive Officer of Recreation Equipment, Inc. (REI).

Read More

Five-year-old news site honored for exposé of Michigan oil spill

Clever tactic by captured politicians.

“The new rules are undemocratic. They attempt to restrict the public’s participation in these hearings and prevent a real dialogue about the environmental impacts of the Line 9 pipeline project,” said Adam Scott of Environmental Defence. “Canadians should not have to apply for permission to have their voices heard on projects that carry serious risks to their communities.”

Under the new rules, any Ontario resident who lives along the 639-km pipeline route who wants to send in a letter about their concerns must first apply to the NEB for permission to send in a letter. As of today, the public will have just two weeks to fill out a 10-page form which asks for a resume and references.

“Since when does someone’s resume determine if they have the right to be concerned about what’s happening in their home community?”


DEEP CUT  The Kennecott Copper Bingham Canyon Mine in Utah sits quiet after a landslide on April 11, 2013.  The mine owner has suspended operations inside one of the world’s deepest open pits as geologists assess a landslide the company says it anticipated for months.  (Photo: Ravell Call / The Deseret News via AP / NBC News)

Holy shit.

You are not going to believe this, but mining public lands is governed by the brutal Mining Act of 1872. This act requires developers to mine certain public lands. (Seriously, it is an abhorrent law and Democrats wont touch it. See here). The law mandates that mining be the highest use of any conceivable land development uses - above roads, electricity, environmental, conservation, even water protection.

Worse, unlike drilling for oil, no royalties are due to the U.S. government for any minerals or metals found (including gold, diamonds, uranium, copper, etc.) A royalty is essentially a fee on every gallon of oil found in the ground. The fee per gallon is paid into the U.S. Treasury, and used to manage permitting and environmental impacts from drilling. In fact, oil royalties are the second highest amount of money collected by the Federal Government (second only to your federal income taxes!). Mining companies are exempt from royalties! I swear this is true!

It gets even worse. This particular mine is run by a foreign mining firm called Rio Tinto, based in the UK. They mine the copper and keep all the money - almost none of it stays in American hands. They pay no royalties, do not have to restore the land, pollute American air, lands, aquifers, and rivers (albeit via EPA permits). Brilliant!

Every major oil company has a climate change division. Most have active climate change plans aimed at reducing emissions, managing environmental risks, and experimenting with alternatives to reduce climate impacts. Importantly, these are voluntary efforts.They chose to manage and discuss climate risk.

Here are links to the biggest oil and gas companies’ climate pages:

See also, Skeptical Science post Big Oil and the Demise of Crude Climate Change Denial.

The question is: What - exactly - do deniers know that these companies do not? And why are these companies not listening to (or hiring) deniers?

New video of the Exxon Pegasus oil spill in Arkansas.