Thursday, June 01, 2006

The Next (but not Final) Frontier

There is a new paper out that concerns the fate of our world, and not coincidentally, the next potentially huge oil discovery. In a paper that is being published in Nature, Scientists have discovered that the Arctic was much warmer 55 million years ago than previously believed, as much as 20 degrees F warmer. Researchers describe the climate as being much like our own climate here in Houston, or Miami, with an average daytime temperature of around 74 degrees F. This balmy weather would have left a massive amount of biological detrius that would have eventually become oil. And just to prove that the science of global climate change IS being influenced by politics at all levels, one of the researchers broke ranks with the others and said:
"The entire Arctic rim is already one big exploration machine," Brinkhuis said. "I was nearly crucified for talking about this by some of the more politically environmentally friendly people out there. But it's a fact."

The article is quite correct that technology to exploit this oil is a little ways off, but don't you think for a second that it won't or can't be done. Much of the technology that has gone into the deep water exploration of the GOM will be transferable. I would not think that it will take quite as long as the researchers think it will. Many academics have this image of the oilfield being pretty backward and technologically unsophisticated. Much of that has changed over the last 20-30 years. Today, the oilfield routinely deploys technologies that rival anything NASA could ever dream up, in fact much of the materials science and technology are outgrowths of the aerospace industry. And the petroleum industry deploys it on a daily basis, without any of the hand wringing and navel contemplation that NASA brings to the table when it deploys similarly complex systems. NASA's researchers often look down their nose at the "applications" side of the biz, often to thier own detriment. In fact, in many instances, the fact that the oilfield is a major market for these advanced materials makes it possible for manufacturers to supply it to the aerospace world through economies of scale. For example a couple years ago I was working on a project and looking at using a new alloy that Special Metals (formerly INCO) had developed but had not begun to produce yet (Inconel 725, an age-hardening version of Inconel 625, one of the oilfield's "gold standards" for corrosion resistance, but with much higher strength, comparable to Inconel 718, but with better corrosion resistance), and WOULD NOT produce until there was a market for it. They were beating down the oilfield's door trying to get us to use it in order to justify manufacturing it (we couldn't use it because there was none available in the quantities and time frames we needed it in, it is a chicken and egg situation, we ended up using 718 instead). In this same project we were using special shape memory alloys as well.

All this however brings us to a very important question for the Global Warming crowd to answer. Humans didn't exist 55 million years ago. We are relatively new on the geologic landscape. If humans weren't involved then, why do they think that humans have such a huge influence now? Isn't that rather Anthropomorphic to think that human activity can influence the global climate that much? Isn't it POSSIBLE that other factors have a much larger influence? Things like solar output and methane hydrate releases or volcanic activity? Why must every bad thing be ascribed to humans? Are we that full of self-loathing?


Anonymous The Pine Blogger said...

There is a new paper out that concerns the fate of our world, and not coincidentally, the next potentially huge oil discovery.

Such a great line!

As a geoscientists, there is no doubt that there is global warming over the past 100 years. But, despite what Gore says, it can not be attributed to humans alone. The fact is all you have to do is look at any paleoclimatology book and you'll see plenty of warming and cooling trends. ARRGHHHH. Drives me nuts.

Thanks for the post.

June 01, 2006 2:15 PM  

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