Tuesday, May 1, 2012

How Much Is Too Much?

At the Offshore Technology Conference that opened Monday in Houston, a presentation focused on a plan to drill the deepest offshore well ever — a scientific project set for 2017 that will break into the seafloor under more than two miles of water.

While the well, which is aimed at retrieving a core of the Earth's mantle, will not produce oil, it will break the record for offshore drilling with a riser — a pipe used in oil drilling that reaches from the rig to the seafloor.

If successful, the accompanying innovations in drilling also could bring energy companies into contact with life and ecosystems even more obscure and less understood than the frontiers they already explore.

So when is it too much?

Pushing deeper underwater could endanger little-understood creatures such as the deep-water corals that were damaged after the Gulf of Mexico oil spill two years ago.

How sad would it be that these oil companies are going to be the first ones maybe to get anywhere near new species of corals and as of yet undiscovered marine life. Ultimately if they're not careful, they may also be the last.

For years the offshore industry's pursuit of oil has pushed drillers farther into the deep, bringing heavy machinery and remote-operated vehicles into some of the most alien reaches of the globe.

Already, oil companies have been scientific observers during deep-water operations. During Shell's development of its Perdido project 200 miles south of Freeport, a camera on an unmanned submarine captured the first images of an obscure creature in its natural habitat: a big-fin squid at a depth of about 6,399 feet below the surface. The Perdido project, which contains the world's deepest producing well at 9,267 feet, was also where workers operating another unmanned submarine spotted a Greenland sleeper shark 8,530 feet under water. The shark previously was thought to stay within 2,000 feet of the surface.

Source: mysanantonio.com/

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