Monday, June 21, 2010

"Drill Baby, Drill!" - Louisiana Light Sweet Crude

Port Townsend, today. Like you, my concern about the developments below the surface of the Gulf of Mexico continues. Due largely in part to my interest in geology, I am a member of a couple of discussion groups composed of professionals in the oil drilling industry and have learned more from those groups than mainstream media, for sure!

Not to fear, the focus of "Oil-Electric" will always be twin shiny rails. Some 18 articles are in various stages of development from EMD's GM6C Thyristor locomotives through Northern Pacific's U25C's. They are, so to speak, "In the hole!"

When reporting the destruction of the Gulf of Mexico, news programs often bring up jargon or issues that are not explained or not fully explained. The Great American News Machine has not provided much information about the petroleum, or oil, spewing into the Gulf. So I went looking.

As we recall from high school science class, the name petroleum is combination of two Latin words "petra" rock and "oleum" oil. Petroleum is a mixture of liquid hydrocarbons along with impurities such as sulfur. "Oil" and "petroleum" are commonly interchanged with each other.

Petroleum was formed as dead plant and animal life decayed. Over time, compression and heating of large accumulations of this material created petroleum. Petroleum is a complex mixture consisting of up to 200 or more different organic compounds, mostly hydrocarbons.

To the average citizen, it is just plain oil. However, petroleum or oil, comes in many different types and varieties.

This hyperlink takes you to a PowerPoint presentation, "Introduction to Petroleum Geology." Click on hyperlink, which opens Google Document. To advance pages click your mouse anywhere on the page.

"Crude" references the raw unprocessed liquid, as it exists in the earth and prior to refining. Crude oil is classified on many criteria including its relative weight, sulfur content, and geographical location.

Relative Weight: Petroleum is further classified as being "light" or "heavy." "Light" means low in tar. Tar is the heaviest component of all the hydrocarbons that are in a barrel of oil. So a barrel of light crude is less dense and therefore lighter than a barrel of "heavy" crude.

Sulfur Content. "Sweet" means low in sulfur below .5% by volume. Sulfur is a problem because when it burns, it creates noxious compounds that pollute the air - that rotten egg odor - and fouls machinery and it is hard to separate from the oil. Sweet oil is easier to refine than sour oil, so the sweetness refers to desirability rather than taste. It probably would actually taste better too, if you wanted to taste it. Sulfur tastes horrible.

Geographical Location: Depending on what died and where it died, we end up with many different types of crude petroleum. For example, oil recovered from Prudhoe Bay is known as "Prudhoe Bay Crude" oil. There are large deposits of Sweet Oils in Alaska, Algeria, Australia, Canada, China, West Texas (referred to as WTI - West Texas Intermediate), and Louisiana.

In the Gulf of Mexico we find Louisiana Light Sweet Crude petroleum. This is what is gushing into the Gulf of Mexico.

  • Louisiana - geographic location
  • Light - relative weight
  • Sweet - low sulfur content
Louisiana Light Sweet crude produces, among other products, gasoline, kerosene, and diesel. The sweetest crude oil in the world - lowest in sulfur content - is produced by from Royal Dutch Shell in Nigeria.

This presentation demonstrates equipment and process we euphemistically refer to as "drilling for oil."

This introduces you to the terminology and process. Furthermore, this is a land-based operation, with the blow out preventor at ground level. The Deepwater Horizon's well and BOP are 5,000 feet - almost a mile - beneath the surface!

We hear the "volume" or "amount" of oil expressed as "barrels," abbreviated as "bbl." One barrel of oil equals 42 US gallons.

John D. Rockefeller's Standard Oil began manufacturing 42 gallon barrels that were painted blue for transporting petroleum. The use of a blue barrel, abbreviated "bbl," guaranteed a buyer that this was a 42-gallon barrel. The extra "b" has stayed with us.

The final step is to transform crude oil into the products we depend on, the process of refining. Refining is a simple yet very complex process of heating crude oil and extracting from its vapors the products we know as gasoline, diesel, lubricating and so on. The graphic illustrates the volume of product extracted from a barrel of oil.

Watching the oil gush from the earth is like watching puss issuing forth from a festering carbuncle. The cozy tarnished cabal of politicians and "profit at any risk" oil barons, is a disgrace to the oil production industry. Perhaps Deepwater Horizon is our wake-up call, demanding renovation and reform.

It was Harry Truman who once said, "Unrestrained, the oil barons will bring the US to its Knees."

See Also:
M/V Joe Griffin and the Magic Box
Tragedy in the Gulf

1 Comments - Click here:

True Dentistry said...

I'm a little nervous that they have resumed drilling again. What are your thoughts on it?

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