An Objective Look at Deep Water Drilling

An Objective Look at Deep Water Drilling

After a long hiatus, deepwater drilling is beginning to grow once again.

The Saudi induced oil shock of the recent past, i.e., 2015, that caused oil prices to crash, coupled with the disaster of the Macondo fire and explosion, brought deepwater drilling to a virtual standstill. The price of oil fell to around $25 per barrel at the depth of the crisis but has recently risen to around $70 per barrel.

Royal Dutch Shell, for example, is now forecasting a resumption of deepwater drilling as costs have been lowered and new technologies have allowed exploration companies to see below the salt domes that have hidden oil and gas riches located below the salt. 

The ability to see below the salt beneath the ocean has made it possible to identify oil and natural gas reserves that were hidden until recently. This is a major technological advance.

All in all, Shell has said that their breakevens for deepwater wells have been lowered to around $30 per barrel.

Deepwater drilling requires drilling in waters that are 5,000 feet deep, or more, with drilling extending another 25,000 feet below the ocean’s floor.

North Sea Rigs in storage near Aberdeen, Scotland. Photo by D. Dears

Popular areas for the resumption of deepwater drilling include the Gulf of Mexico, and areas near Brazil, Guyana, and in the North Sea.

The Gulf of Mexico was the site of the Macondo Blowout, which spewed millions of barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, causing huge amounts of damage.

Some may question the safety of deepwater drilling, so it behooves all of us to understand the risks and the steps that are taken to prevent serious accidents.

An excellent book in this regard is, The Simple Truth, BP’s Macondo Blowout, by J.A. Turley. Mr. Turley is a professor of petroleum engineering and has the knowledge needed to assess what happened on the Macondo drill rig that led to the blowout.

The storyline is fiction, but the facts embedded in the story are real. The process for drilling and the precautions that should be taken to assess the safety of the well are explained in detail, with drawings to make it easy to follow what happened on the Macondo rig, and why, if procedures had been followed, there should not have been an accident. It’s clear, there were multiple events that the drilling crew ignored and that it should have been possible to have avoided the blowout.

He explains the eleven steps that should have been taken to avoid the blowout, and why deepwater drilling should be safe. 

As concerned citizens, we can benefit from reading The Simple Truth, as it will allow us to make an educated decision about the safety of deepwater drilling.

There is always the possibility for human error, but no one, especially the oil companies, wants another oil spill. As the book, The Simple Truth, makes clear, professional adherence to established procedures should prevent any future blowout. 

Some will say we should outlaw drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, but that’s not the lesson to be learned from the Macondo Blowout, and The Simple Truth makes that clear.

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