I was invited by the senior communications person at the American Petroleum Institute to tour the soon to be installed Blind Faith oil and natural gas production platform south east of New Orleans. It’s a multibillion dollar project, starting with buying seismic data for lease tracts, bidding for the leases out in 7000 feet of water, paying the Feds winning bid fees and the costs to carry the lease and development until its paying instead of costing. Here’s the “transparency” note, as if anyone would expect anything less, the API sponsored and paid for (almost all) of the trip. My personal cash out was small but coming up with nearly three days free was hard.
Here is co-blogger McQs first take on the trip. If you like the numbers and details of the platform McQ was taking notes. It looks like I’ll update this page for a while as there are two more bloggers to speak on this plus the party included the API representative and the Edelman PR representative. It will get interesting to read how these different sets of eyes view the same event.
It was worth it though. I‘m not real sure how visitors view me or determine my place vis-à-vis the various technologies I’m so enthused about. Yet under all of this is a hard realization of fact, we need oil and gas and coal for the visible foreseeable future without any doubt. None, no doubt whatsoever, years certainly, and oil and gas will have a vital role for decades to come.
To background this, here is some history. If you’re old enough you can recall when gasoline was less than $0.20 a gallon and gas “wars” could drive that below a nickel. In the 1960s the oil business was drowning in oil. These people were the American Business Ambassadors, the most hoped for Americans to visit other countries. When DDT was banned the oil industry was backing research into how to kill bugs and weeds so the “Food Revolution” that Norman Borlaug invented had a chance. Billions of people are alive that otherwise would never have had Dad’s sperm meet Mom’s egg. Research dollars poured into every conceivable area where the organic chemistry of oil might support new products or cut costs. While most of us were living our American Dreams, rebelling against the establishment the grownups were coming up with ways to make food cheaper, clothes better, new pharmaceuticals, and such a list of hydrocarbon sourced goods that the list defies finding an end. The oil industry moved the earth to get rid of all that oil.
All good things come to an end, of course. By the early 1970s the Arabs in particular and oil controlled by tyrant or dictator governments had benefited from the largess of the American tradition to share education, training and the mentoring and expertise provided by the oil industry and American universities to their people empowering these characters to embargo the west in return for not selling out Israel. You might note there was never even a hint that “Big Oil” would betray the U.S., the western countries or little, not very oil important, Israel. What we got was the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, OPEC. And later, another embargo, after another little war.
The noteworthy word back there is betray. There has never been a credible word that the oil industry, or “Big Oil” if you must, ever was anything other than one of us. But it’s a safe bet the tyrants, dictators and angry losers took a run at the oil industry people before they embargoed all of us. The oil industry people are us, literally, from the lady at the minimart gas station back up to the oil company employees and executives and on out to the thousands of contractors and suppliers to the business, with pensions and salaries for millions and millions and millions of us and stocks held by pension funds and mutual funds of millions more – the oil business is us. It’s almost paralyzing when you get deep enough to realize that the oil business is us, all of us to a greater or lesser degree.
That betrayal problem is still right here. The OPEC types are still around distorting the market, but that betrayal is mostly behind the oil industry, even as they had to learn it again in Russia and may well learn it again somewhere when they invest, build, and teach and train only to have the resources swiped by some “government.” Even the US government has the betrayal bug, trying to renegotiate leases that seem too cheap now. Must be a lesson the feds learned from the banks that change the credit card deal with a notice in the mail. But the big betrayal is the western mass media and the nose ringed politicians that follow their line.
So here’s what I got from the trip that the American Petroleum Institute was so gracious to arrange. Its not I think, what they hoped for, a “Wow, isn’t that technology that Chevron has on the new oil platform amazing?” (It is) It’s rather a renormalizing of the view, the oil business is America, my family, friends, community and a part of my and everyone else’s future.
What I mean is the people I met from Chevron were just like good people everywhere. I saw faces and names sourced from all over the world, just like everywhere in America. I heard voices with accents both American and foreign. I smelled the salt air of the Gulf of Mexico, Texas barbecue, perfume of the Texas beauties, the sweat of welders and fitters, grease and lubricating oil, the burnt welding flux and metal welded into place, wet paint and anticorrosion coatings, ozone from new electronics, and the smell of a billion dollars stacked up in steel and skill and imagination higher than a football field is long in less than a third of a football field’s area. I felt the cool breeze from the gulf, the slope of the platform floors tilted to run the seawater off the platform, the irregular grilles that make up much of the outer flooring and staircases that are open out over the water 300 or so feet down and the tug of leather safety gloves catching on the fresh paint of dozens and dozens of hand rails.
Yup, it’s an amazing macro (major and huge) technological marvel. It will draw oil and gas from miles deep in water nearly a mile and half deep where the pressures are in the tens of thousands of pounds per square inch – for decades. While most of us are a little spoiled by the onslaught of ever smaller, cooler and functionally amazing electronics the other end of high tech, large dimension technology, hasn’t been standing still. In fact, Chevron’s Blind Faith follows BP America’s Thunderhorse platform that has and still struggles to get going in 6000 feet of water. The BP America platform Atlantis finally began startup procedures in October and should bring oil and gas ashore to the US soon. Between these three platforms about a half million barrels a day of oil and millions of cubic feet of natural gas will come to American shores, by American companies, built by American hands. More of this caliber of investment daring, engineering talent, management skill and hard, hard work will see other projects come to America’s rescue in the years ahead.
But the betrayal isn’t over, the mass media and nose ringed politicians aren’t the only guilty dopes in our country. A hard economic fact that if you want more of something don’t tax it and if you want less of something tax it, is just lost on many Americans and the press. That makes it the peak of stupidity to tax oil and gas production. At the same time it’s the peak of stupidity not to tax vehicle choices that are pigs like SUVs, large cars and pickups and other prodigiously wasteful uses of petroleum products. The utter nonsense floating in Congress wearing an “energy bill” label misses most every sensible response to petroleum products nested in common sense. An example is raising the “CAFÉ” or an automaker’s Corporate Annual Fleet Economy. It’s just dopey and has been proven so since it was invented. If you’re going to tax to make a point, aim at the TARGET! Tax the guzzlers in a big way and use the money to cut the cost of sippers. Is that impossible to get across?
I want to wind up with my thanks to the American Petroleum Institute, their assisting firm Edelman, the oil companies Chevron, Anadarko, the construction firm Kiewit and the many travel services, lodging providers and food services that made the trip and tour so easy that the focus was on the people and technology. Without their professionalism, courtesy and attention to detail stuffing all that took place in the time allowed would not have been so fully useful to the others who took part and myself. The effect of API’s investment in the visitors has a sound and educational impact that will last for years. If I had a suggestion, hopeless with the urgency to get to sea and into production with such an enormous investment, it would be to have many, many more people do visits and become more knowledgeable about what it takes to get the gasoline to come out of the nozzle at the gas station.