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Dirty Energy & FuelScience

Expand Offshore Drilling? Three Words for You: Katrina, Rita, Gustav

Friede & Goldman LTD at Wikimedia Commons under a GNU Free Documentation license.)Why is expanded offshore drilling not the lasting solution to the U.S.’s energy problems? Besides many of the other valid reasons (decades to get to market, potential environmental devastation, oil as a global commodity), Satish Nagarajaiah offers another one:

Billions and billions of dollars in potential storm-related losses.

A civil and mechanical engineering professor at Rice University, Nagarajaiah recently analyzed the impacts on offshore drilling of the powerful 2005 hurricanes, Katrina (which made landfall three years ago today) and Rita. The storms, both of which reached maximum Category 5 strength (winds of up to 175 mph) though weakened before landfall, made their presence felt to some 3,000 offshore platforms and 22,000 miles of pipelines in the Gulf of Mexico.

Of those installations, Katrina and Rita together destroyed 115 platforms and eight rigs. An additional 52 platforms sustained major damage and 19 floating rigs were damaged or set adrift. The storms also damaged 535 segments of pipeline.

The oil-related impacts of Katrina and Rita caused post-storm gas prices to skyrocket in the U.S. And with a new storm, Gustav, now setting its sights on the Gulf Coast, the market repercussions today could be even higher, considering we reached all-time high crude prices earlier this summer.

“If one major deep-water production platform is destroyed, you’re talking about a $1 billion or more loss,” Nagarajaiah said. “If it’s multiple rigs and platforms in a variety of water depths, then we’re talking billions of dollars.”

And, of course, there’s the potential (how much is still uncertain) for hurricanes and tropical storms to increase in either number or intensity in coming decades as we keep pumping more and more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Couple that with rising sea levels, and expanded offshore drilling hardly seems like a plan for energy security, does it?




11 comments
  1. Jim

    Dusty, how hard is it to do a quick search before spouting off.

    http://www.nrdc.org/media/pressreleases/050915.asp

    This article documents the huge amounts of oil spilled after Katrina. Oil spill in mass quantities is not natural. I’m hoping you are not serious and that it really does matter if there is an oil spill. If you were serious you need to think about people other than yourself. You have kids? Grandkids? What is the meaning of life if not to leave the world a better place than you found it. Are you accomplishing that goal? Judging from your email, I think not.

  2. Nate

    Uh, first of all, “Tarheel”, one word, comes from pine tar and turpentine production that NC was known for in its early colonial history, not some mythological oil slick on the Outer Banks. Secondly, this “drill here, drill now, pay less” mentality is not going to fix anything. If the oil was available, it would have been exploited already. It simply is not. We, as in the entire world, produces quite a bit of oil. The main issue is, the growing international demand for the stuff. We have to move on, instead of getting used by the big oil companies to support their agendas for expanding their drilling rights. It will not make filling up your car cheaper, just more money for the oil companies. Clean coal doesn’t exist. Period. No matter how much a “Clean Coal” lobby says it does, it doesn’t. I find it strange that Repubs hate special interest groups unless they spout pyramid scheme logic. I’m a Nuclear Engineer, (from NCSU, not UNC) and former Navy nuclear operator, and the future is in renewables and nuclear power. The price models for these sources are extremely steady. Renewables require only initial construction and maintenance. Nuclear fuel can quadruple without hardly any impact on the KwH price the customer pays since the majority of the cost is plant operation. The personal transportation sector will need to be converted from the current dependence on liquid fuels to electricity. This will eliminate the US need for liquid fuels for combustion and leave plenty for the chemical industry (which is 25% of current US consumption).

  3. Dusty

    this is just some more of that eco-nazis alarmism. We didn’t lose a drop of oil in Katrina. We’ve had dozens of major oil spills from ships in the years since the last oil platform spill off Santa Barbara but these zealots don’t tell you that. Furthermore, even if we DID have a spill “so what”. Oil comes from the earth and it is a natural product that washes up on the beaches every day. Why do you think No. Carolinans are called “tar heels”? The Fla. beaches have always had oil on them from natural seeps and always will, Next subject?

  4. Luke

    Hurricanes in the gulf is just the reason we need to drill in other places so the temporary disruption is not so bad. We need to drill in Colorado, Alaska, offshore, onshore, etc…Technology has come far enough to do a great job of producing oil environmentally safe and we will get clean burning natural gas along with it. DRILL, DRILL, DRILL!

  5. Amy

    I am sure you are all together too familiar people giving advice, but isn’t it clear that expanding offshore drilling ment to include states that aren’t on the gulf coast? Like California, and Oregon??? I haven’t seen too many storms there that would devastate drilling platforms.
    Although they may some day be father out from the shore than they would be now….

  6. Travis

    So, exactly how is it that everyone keeps screaming about ‘global warming’ when average temperatures around the globe have been at worst level and at best falling? 1998 was the supposed ‘hottest year on record’. Therefore since 1998, that’s 10 years for the mathematically challenged, temeperatures have been cooler. That doesn’t sound to me like we’re on the verge of annihalation as a planet!

    http://climatepolice.wordpress.com/2007/08/10/global-warming-movement-falling-apart/

    Besides, we’re going to be using oil for a LONG LONG time no matter what we do, so why not use ours instead of sending hundreds of billions of dollars to other countries such as Saudi Arabia, Iran, Venenzuela, Russia, etc.?

  7. Juiceman

    One acronym: ANWR
    Two phrases: Nuclear Power & Clean Coal

    The locations for drilling are marshland, nothing like the beautiful mountains, etc. which greenies spew forth. In fact, drilling is occurring right next door, and the wildlife are thriving.

    The areas being sought are in hurricane alley, but other countries have absolutely no problems drilling just off shore of the United States. We should have no problem with it, either.

    If greenies want to keep us slaves to foreign energy supplies, then by all means keep doing the same thing in blocking every energy concept like the past 30 years… you know, when the big threat was global COOLING!

  8. Doug Wood

    How can such one sided arguments be made from a person with such credentials. My question to you is this. . .we will be using and needing petroleum for far more years than what it would take to get an oil rig in production. Consequently, would it not be better for us to be generating oil and oil revenues for the U.S. rather than sending those revenues abroad? (Duh!) Our oil drilling efforts will not set push aside alternative energy sources. Common sense tells you that we can pursue the oil while concurrently working on alternatives (wind, nuclear, bio et al). This way, we will be working toward energy independence on “all” fronts, and at the same time securing our energy needs for the duration of the time it takes to get other alternative energy sources viable and available.

  9. Mr. Beckman

    This gulf coast area being targeted by storms make Alaska coastline the prime choice and time for American oil companies to set their teeth and commit to reducing our dependency on middle east oil, pay attention to our new candidates and request discussion on this topic, save American careers, not just the jobs, do not let one dollar of tax relief go without accounting, this is our future folks, break the dependency as quickly as practical.

  10. George Gillespie

    The supposition that offshore drilling is too risky because of hurricanes is flawed. Increasingly drilling offsahore woudl take place off the east and west coasts. Overwhelmingly in areas not subject to hurricanes and cyclonic storms. The fact is that while there was a lot of damage to the Gulf of Mexico rigs, that only makes additional drilling elsewhere all the more necessary. At this point a majority of our offshore drilling is in one basket, the Gulf. If we had drilling, say off the coast of Calif., then the effects on overall production would be greatly lessened by having tapped sources elsewhere, yet still in the U.S A.

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