Unlike people in the glamour states of Florida and California, folks here in Texas don’t mind a little offshore oil development. We view the petroleum industry as two parts necessary evil and one part benevolent overlord. And, we feel this way for free. We don’t get paid off like the lucky folks in Alaska. Our complacency is almost a kind of nostalgia. You might say Big Oil has it pretty easy here in the Gulf of Mexico.
In 2001 there were 46 deep water rigs operating in the Gulf and the mood was one of cautious optimism. Now, thanks to escalating oil prices, the mood is more like a rich man’s bliss.
The Baltimore Sun reports on a new ultra-deep oil platform set for installation:
Eight miles north of the maritime border with Mexico, in waters a mile and a half deep, Shell Oil Co. is constructing the most ambitious offshore oil platform ever attempted in the Gulf of Mexico.
As tall as the Eiffel Tower, the floating production facility will be anchored to the ocean floor by moorings spanning an area the size of downtown Houston. Slated to begin operating late next year, this leviathan known as Perdido (or Lost) will cost billions and be capable of pumping 100,000 barrels of crude a day.
The spar will be secured in place by nine chain and polyester rope mooring lines, spanning an area of the seafloor roughly the size of downtown Houston.
I’m a sucker for any story with the word “ultra deep” in it, but the article at the Sun invokes an interesting discussion of a “drinking straw effect” wherein a US rig close to a maritime border might siphon oil from across the boundary in Mexican waters. This is a little backwards, though.
My understanding is that crude oil in the seafloor strata is under such tremendous pressure that its forced out, by natural means or by injection. So, technically there is no “sucking sound” for Mexico to worry about. The oil is not drawn off like Uncle Sam with a drinking straw, it is forced out by surrounding pressure. Minor detail.
Another point relevant to recent discussions here at DSN is the timeline from exploration to extraction, and when a country (like Britain for example) might have knowledge of reserves (around the Falkland Islands, perhaps) and when it later becomes technically feasible and profitable to extract those resources. The ultra deep oil reserves here in the GoMx are situated around Alaminos Canyon, which was explored (for biology) in the late 60′s, so my guess is we’re seeing a forty to fifty year timeline for the development of these oil fields.
LATimes covers the same story at the Baltimore Sun, with better graphics, like the one shown above.