Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Posting will be light to non existant next week

I'm taking a road trip to Washington DC and don't plan to be back until next Thursday. If I luck out and have time and internet access I will post. Otherwise I'll resume when I get back.

Britt Hulme gets it right

Britt was on Fox last night. Talked about the Gulf oil spill. Said the overall safety record is pretty good, tens of thousands of offshore wells drilled with just this one really bad spill. Then he mentioned that the bulk of oil spills are tanker accidents (can you say Exxon Valdez?). He pointed out that if we don't drill for it here, we bring it in by tanker. Stop drilling and we get more tanker traffic. He reckoned that we do better, spill wise, drilling for it here than we do running tankers from the mid east.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Farewell old Paint

At 125K miles, trusty Cadillac is toast. Between the NH champion potholes and road salt, the bolts that hold the rear axle on the poor car have loosened from the body and the axle is close to coming off the car. Caddy, like all cars since the 1960's, is a unibody car. No frame, the body sheet metal carries all the structural loads. This design is highly admired by the auto racing fans, who call it "monocoque". It saves weight. Drawback to the design is there are no hardpoints to bolt heavy stuff like the engine and wheels. The car winds up with the heavy stuff bolted onto plain light sheet metal.
When the sheet metal fails, there is no reasonable fix, short of replacing the entire body of the car.
Too bad. Caddy has been a wonderful car for the last 75K miles and five years. It was cheap to buy, fast, powerful, quiet, and comfortable. Thrifty too, 27 mpg highway.

Signs of Spring

Yesterday it became warm enough to brush Cat on the porch. In winter Cat wisely refuses to get anywhere near the door. Yesterday Cat stood calmly on the porch railing while I brushed her out with an ordinary people type hair brush. Huge clumps of shed cat fur drifted away on the slight breeze. It's a pleasure to do this outside. When brushed inside the huge clumps drift away to the furniture and it makes me wonder why I bother. The idea behind brushing Cat is to reduce the amount of fur shed indoors.
Second clue. I had to get the mower out and cut the grass. The last snow storm only melted out the day before and here I am with the mower. Grass grows quick up here in the mountains.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Spectacular Pictures of drill rig burning and sinking

Watt's Up With That has a great set of pictures posted here:

The existential beauty of off shore wind farms.

This morning's NH public radio had a lady advocate waxing eloquent about the beauties of the Narragansett bay wind farm. "If only BP had been putting in wind rather than drilling for oil." Now that Teddy Kennedy is gone from the scene, some federal department OK'd the Cape Wind project, which had been held up for years by a Kennedy led group objecting to the unsightliness of it all.
The advocate failed to mention to cost per kilowatt hour for wind generated electricity, and the 2.3 cent a kilowatt hour subsidy for wind plants. The Cape Wind project will be 500 kilowatts, about one half the output of a real power plant, and only when the wind is blowing hard.
Not did she discuss what happens when the wind stops blowing, which it does frequently. I have sailed Narragansett bay and can attest to weary hours spent waiting for a wind.
In actual fact, the power companies have to build a real power plant to back up every wind plant to keep the customer's lights on during a calm. That's expensive.
So expensive that us rate payers expect another rate increase when and if Cape Wind ever goes on line.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Blow out Preventers and the BP spill

There is not much published on the web about these gadgets. They were invented in the 1920's and they ended the "gusher". You must have seen a picture of black oil spurting up higher than the top of the drill rig. The movie "Giant" with Jimmy Dean as oil wildcatter Jett Rink had a great gusher scene, black goop falling like rain.
The blowout preventer is a VERY strong valve that sits on the top of the well and shuts off the oil flow. Just how they work, above ground or underwater, was not made clear. It is implied, (but not outright stated) that they work by squeezing the steel drill pipe shut. Presumably this requires a power source (hydraulic? electric? compressed air? explosives? ) to work the pipe crushing ram. Also presumably activating the blow out preventer is an emergency measure since it damages the drill pipe, requiring replacement of the section of pipe the preventer squeezed flat. Also, presumably, the blow out preventer only succeeds in shutting off the oil flow when the drill pipe remains more or less intact.
Questions for BP. How was the blow out preventer powered one mile under water? Did the power come down from the floating platform that exploded and sank? How was the signal to actuate the preventer carried down under water? Was there any redundancy in case water got into the wiring or a pipe sprang a leak? Was the actuation automatic, like a fire alarm? Or was it the duty of the watch officer to flip a switch in the control room? What sort of protections against accidental actuation of the blow out preventer were there? What was the name of the watch officer responsible? Did this individual survive the fire and explosion that sank the platform?
More questions. Can the preventer be actuated by a submarine? What equipment does the sub need to carry? If the power supply is sunk, or run down (batteries, or compressed air tanks) can the sub recharge it? Is there a backup actuater such as a big hand crank? If so, can a sub work it?
And more questions. Who sold the blow out preventer? Was it new or used? Is that model rated strong enough to handle a well that deep? Who inspected the blowout preventer before it was installed one mile under water? What are the inspection requirements? Cracks? Leaks? Fully charged batteries or air tanks? functional control circuits? Are there any inspection requirements once the blow out preventer is under water? If so, did BP carry them out?
These are all questions that educated and experienced news men would ask. Unfortunately newsies these days are neither educated nor experienced.