Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Gulf

Juli asked me to blog about the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. As most of you probably know I am a drilling engineer. For the last 13 years I have drilled and completed oil and gas wells. I have followed the BP disaster very closely and from everything I have read (presentations to Congress by BP, the Waxman letter, updates from the BP website, etc) BP made some poor decisions that led to this disaster. The only thing that comforts me is that relief wells work 100% of the time. That is the only way that the well will be brought under control and the flow of hydrocarbons stopped. All other options have been exhausted. I included a link to a very good presentation ~10 minutes long on the relief well here (Kent Wells technical update from June 27).

I am extremely confident in the relief wells. One is enough. Having a second is prudent given the damage that is occurring. They will work. It is proven technology. "Killing" a well is easily done from the bottom of the well but very difficult from the top. From BP's update they are 55' away from the well and are honing in on it. They are 10 days ahead of schedule.

Oil and gas drilling can be done very safely. To drill safely two barriers must be maintained at all times to prevent oil and gas from coming to surface. In the case of the BP incident a late change in the well design, the decision to not lock down the wellhead seal, a poor cement job, performing multiple operations at once when displacing the well to seawater (which contributed to missing indications that something was wrong), and then the failure of the blow out preventers resulted in this tragedy.

We were sad to hear about oil reaching the marshes of Louisiana and the beaches of Florida. We frequented the swamps south of New Orleans and loved the sea food and culture present in South Louisiana. We still have many friends there and loved our time and now visits there. I participated in work parties with our church after Katrina and Rita to clean up hurricane damage in Louisiana. We feel close to the people there. While we lived in New Orleans for 3 years one of our favorite places was Fort Pickens. We have such great memories camping there. We loved hearing the frogs, playing in the ocean and bay, walking on the beaches at night and seeing the phosphorescence as the waves crashed and where we stepped in the wet sand.

So here are my thoughts: I think we are actually lucky that BP is the responsible party. They seem to have acknowledged their responsibility and in my opinion are doing everything possible to remedy the situation. The industry I work in will clearly have to change because this should never have happened and we should have been better prepared.

What I am saddened by most is the president's decision to stop offshore drilling. That is like saying that if there is a coal mining accident in one mine that all mines should be closed. That is unbelievable. For the people of the Gulf Coast to lose a major industry like fishing is horrible but then for the president to shut down another main source of income (oil and gas drilling) is worse. There needs to be a measured response. Unfortunately the American public does not understand the industry that provides them energy so there are many misunderstandings and false perceptions. My heart goes out to the people of the Gulf Coast.

Maybe this is a chance for us to look more longterm. We as a nation have never been able to do this though. Until something else replaces hydrocarbons we need them to maintain our standard of living. As Americans we use 25% of the WORLD's energy with only 5% of the world's population. We import 60% of the oil that we use. Most of that comes from countries near us (Canada, Mexico, Venezuela). We are energy pigs. I think we should be thankful for the country we live in, the freedoms we have and the lifestyle we enjoy but we MUST conserve and become better stewards of what we have. We have some tough choices as a nation ahead. If we move to solar (doesn't work when the sun is down), wind (huge footprint relative to what hydrocarbon production takes and not efficient), nuclear, coal, or hydro they all have pretty major disadvantages. To me it makes sense to do some of all of them. Solar in NM and Queensland makes sense but not in Seattle.

I commit to do my part. What are you going to do to be better? Set your thermostat one degree hotter or cooler, use Solar in your home, put in a zero scape yard? We can all do something......

Happy to talk to anyone about this.

Thursday, June 10, 2010


Aussie Word of the Week

Jumper (n): Pronounced "Jompa"
Translation: a woolen or fleece sweater or jacket.
Used in a sentence: Sarah dearest, it's cold outside. You better wear your jumper.

Here's Sarah. Can't you tell her hands are cold. It was really cold - at least 60 degrees. She is sporting her Jumpa outside at pick up time - my least favorite time of the day, not because I don't want to pick up my kids but because it is such a hassle! All of the girls wear the same hat, which makes it difficult to tell which child wearing Madeline camoflage is mine. Remember that movie about the penguins in Antarctica? Remember the part where the penguins are changing places and trying to find their chick, though they all look alike? That's me, 5 times a week, squawking and hoping my chicks will hear me and reveal which one they are. And one other thing that I hate about pick up time: parallel parking. I'm still avoiding it like the plague. It causes me anxiety. (Please note that I received an A in parallel parking in driver's ed. Doing it on the other side of the road still feels very awkward.)

Hopefully, we won't need jumpers next week when we go to visit our family. That's right, we're changing hemispheres for a holiday. I love the fourth of July. I'm excited to spend it in the good ol' US of A.

Speaking of the fourth of July, did I ever tell you about our first fourth of July down south? We were living in New Orleans and decided to go camping in Mississippi for the holiday. Did I mention I was 6 months pregnant and it was July? Of course. Actually, I wasn't the only one who was pregnant - Natalie Summers was due a week before me. The Shanklins and Pickards came too. We decided to stay in the "primative area" which is code for "the jeff foxworthys camping next to you will be peeing in the bushes, so avert your eyes." I've never been so hot in my life. Sleeping was not easy. We had to open all of the windows to let some air in, otherwise, I would have slipped into something a little more comfortable, like my birthday suit. It was that hot. We found refuge from the heat by standing in the luke warm lake, dodging cigarette butts the entire day. Only problem was that the lake wasn't that clean, so I ended up with a brown line across my middle - the high water mark. The ladies in line to the outhouse were super nice and let me go first on account of my delicate condition (good thing - that line was long!) Thank y'all.

I do have to give credit to the city of Hattiesburg. They had an awesome fourth of July picnic. There were sack races (which Shon won with his mad skills. I'm sure the fact that he was the only one not drunk helped.) and an ice cream eating contest - won by the three time returning champ, Bubba, looking the part in his overalls without a shirt. I set my picnic basket beneath a tree and found it an hour later inhabited by an entire colony of ants - they ate through the plastic wrap and tunneled all around in the banana bread like an ant farm. My favorite part was just before the fireworks when Elvis came and sang the national anthem: "I wish I lived in a land of cotton . . ."
I sound like I'm being sarcastic and didn't have a good time, but it's actually one of my favorite memories of the Fourth of July. I would do it all again.