Random Notes  

Posted by Big Gav

Hurricane season in the Carribean seems to be well under way, with a raft of hurricane related news items appearing lately.

The "Thunder Horse" platform has been the subject of much of the commentary in the wake of hurricane Dennis, as it now has an interesting tilt.

Oil major BP Plc said Tuesday it was surveying any damage to its Thunder Horse platform - the largest new oil facility planned in the Americas through 2007 - after it began listing 20 to 30 degrees following the passing of Hurricane Dennis. The platform was scheduled for initial production later this year of 250,000 barrels per day of oil and 200 million cubic feet of natural gas.

Thunder Horse is the biggest hope for a small recovery in crude production in the United States where oil output has been falling since the 1970s. The Gulf of Mexico currently produces about 1.5 million barrels per day of oil, about 25 percent of total U.S. production. BP also has the Atlantis platform in the works in the Gulf of Mexico which is expected to produce 200,000 barrels per day of oil and 180 million cubic feet of gas after its start-up in the third quarter of 2006.

Company spokesman Ronnie Chappell reiterated on Tuesday that Thunder Horse had appeared to stabilize on Monday. But he said the company had to survey the submerged part of the platform before putting a team on board it and attempting to right it. "We don't know what the cause is, there was no one aboard the platform when it occurred," said Chappell.

BP was surveying Thunder Horse on Tuesday with remote operated vehicles operated from a mother ship. On Monday, Chappell said the listing could be due to excess water in the platform's ballast tanks from Hurricane Dennis and not the result of major structural damage.

Once again I feel the need to note the problem with hurricanes - as global warming increases, tropical storms get stronger and more frequent. As oil depletion proceeds, we become more dependent on offshore oil and gas production. Add the two up and you get a lot more oil price volatility during hurricane season. WorldChanging seems to feel much the same way.
From the "irony can be pretty ironic" department: Green Car Congress points to reports that 96% of oil production in the Gulf of Mexico was stopped as a result of Hurricane Dennis -- with Hurricane Emily (not named after our Emily... as far as we know...) just around the corner. The force of the storm was enough to cause the "Thunder Horse" rig (jointly owned by BP and ExxonMobil, and due to come online later this year) to list at an angle of 20-30 degrees, as well. The production stoppage was down to "only" 56% by earlier today.

Hurricanes happen in the Gulf, and whether or not global warming had any direct connection to the force of Dennis is unknowable. Regardless, that a hurricane (possibly driven in part by global warming) shut down some of the oil production that eventually leads to more global warming is a further hint that (as the saying goes) "nature bats last."

The Oil Drum has a good description of how much oil production is affected depending on the path hurricanes take as they pass through the gulf.
As the path of Hurricane Dennis becomes clearer it is interesting to contrast this with the location of the major new fields that are currently being developed in the Gulf. A detailed map of their location can be found at Rigzone but for the sake of simple reference I have put a couple of dots on the map that I took from the NOAA site showing the projected path for Dennis.

The black dot on the edge of the green and yellow zones south of New Orleans, represents the Thunder Horse platform which is scheduled to ramp up until it is producing 250,000 bd of oil at a water depth of about 6,000 ft.

The white dot further out and in the blue zone nearer the left side, represents the Mad Dog development that will ramp up to 100,000 bd; the Holstein development that will also produce, at peak, around 100,000 bd of oil; and the Atlantis field that will begin production next year and will ramp up to around 200,000 bd in all.

Put together these projects have the potential of around 650,000 bd, but as can be seen, they are sitting in an uncomfortable spot relative to the tracks of the hurricanes.

Next up - hurricane Emily, which apparently is headed deeper into the gulf than Dennis was.

In other oil news, RigZone reports there is booming demand for rig workers in the, less hurricane prone, North Sea.
The world's largest offshore drilling company has set up a special "boot camp" as a fast-track training base to meet a major shortfall of experienced labor in the North Sea oil and gas industry. Record oil prices have led to a massive upsurge in drilling activity in the UK Continental Shelf, with exploration drilling at its highest level for more than a decade.

And many drilling firms, forced to lay off hundreds of workers because of a drastic downturn in business over the last ten years, have had to embark on massive recruitment campaigns to meet the demand. Some companies have recruited novice workers from as far afield Australia. And one company, Transocean, has established a special training facility on one of its rigs, tied up in the Cromarty Firth, to provide rigorous training courses for new recruits. The facility is staffed by retired workers re-hired as instructors.

Moving to the middle east, Kuwait has announced a new light oil find near the Iraqi border.

Across the border, some bold claims are being made about increasing production by a spokesman for the oil ministry, Mr Jihad (one of those incongruous names which tends to make me snicker, much like "Cardinal Sin" of the Phillipines).
Iraq is planning to issue new tenders by the end of the year for contracts to develop 11 southern oil fields in a bid to increase production by 3 million barrels a day, an oil official said Monday. Specialists at the oil ministry are cooperating with several international companies to prepare studies on how to develop these fields before announcing the tenders, Assem Jihad, a spokesman for the oil ministry, told Dow Jones Newswires. "These fields would add 3 million barrels a day to Iraq's current oil production," he said, declining to name the 11 fields.

Iraq is currently producing around 2.2 million b/d, of which around 1.5 million b/d is for export, with the rest domestic consumption. Jihad said the development plan falls within Iraq's long-standing target of 5-6 million b/d of output by the end of 2010, which should cost around $25 billion.

Of course, you could ask how Iraqi oil production is being measured and if the official figures of current production are correct, let alone future estimates. It does appear that billions of dollars of current oil revenues are being siphoned off - along with plenty of US taxpayer money as well.
At the same time, the IAMB discovered that Iraqi oil exports were unmetered. Neither the Iraqi State Oil Marketing Organisation nor the American authorities could give a satisfactory explanation for this. "The only reason you wouldn't monitor them is if you don't want anyone else to know how much is going through," one petroleum executive told me.

Officially, Iraq exported $10bn worth of oil in the first year of the American occupation. Christian Aid has estimated that up to $4bn more may have been exported and is unaccounted for. If so, this would have created an off-the-books fund that both the Americans and their Iraqi allies could use with impunity to cover expenditures they would rather keep secret - among them the occupation costs, which were rising far beyond what the Bush administration could comfortably admit to Congress and the international community.

One last story from Iraq, as it's important not to forget what we are doing there to ensure our control of all this oil - this one is from the cream of the British press, "The Observer", which tends to support the theory that the "Salvador option" has now been implemented and is in full swing.
The gruesome detail is important. Hanging by the arms in cuffs, scorching of the body with something like an iron and knee-capping are claimed to be increasingly prevalent in the new Iraq. Now evidence is emerging that appears to substantiate those claims. Not only Iraqis make the allegations. International officials describe the methods in disgusted but hushed tones, laying them at the door of the increasingly unaccountable forces attached to Iraq's Ministry of the Interior.

The only question that remains is the level of the co-ordination of the abuse: whether Iraq is stumbling towards a policy of institutionalised torture or whether these are incidents carried out by rogue elements.

Six months ago, Human Rights Watch (HRW) laid out a catalogue of alleged abuses being applied to those suspected of terrorism in Iraq and called for an independent complaints body in Iraq. But as the insurgency has grown hotter, so too, it appears, have been the methods employed in the dirty counter-insurgency war.

To add to HRW's allegations of beatings, electric shocks, arbitrary arrest, forced confessions and detention without trial, The Observer can add its own charges These include the most brutal kinds of torture, with methods resurrected from the time of Saddam; of increasingly widespread extra-judicial executions; and of the existence of a 'ghost' network of detention facilities - in parallel with those officially acknowledged - that exist beyond all accountability to international human rights monitors, NGOs and even human rights officials of the new Iraqi government.

What is most shocking is that it is done under the noses of US and UK officials, some of whom admit that they are aware of the abuses being perpetrated by units who are diverting international funding to their dirty war.

Hassan an-Ni'ami may well have been a terrorist. Or he may have had knowledge of that terrorism. Or he may have been someone who objected too loudly to foreign troops being in Iraq. We will never know. He had no opportunity to defend himself, no lawyer, no trial. His interrogation and killing were a breach of international law.

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