Skip to main content

View Diary: Countdown to $100 oil (29) - Alaska joins axis of evil (unreliable oil suppliers) (143 comments)

Comment Preferences

  •  What this says (6+ / 0-)

    I'm in this biddness. Not so much the corrosion business. Just generally the oil biddness.

    The sort of thinning they're seeing in those pipe walls is shocking. There are several ways pipelines can lose metal.

    1. Corrosion (caused by metal eating chemicals which may or may not have a bacteriological origin). Corrosion is enhanced, made worse by heat. Past certain temperatures, the temperature effect might not be linear. This is kept at bay via chemical corrosion inhibitors, temperature control and monitoring, or should be.
    1. Cathodic (electrical) damage. If you stick a piece of metal in the ground, electricity will flow along it. If you stick a long piece of metal in the ground (like miles of pipeline), rather a lot of electricity will flow along it. Different patches of ground have different amounts and polarities of electrical charge. Of course, they try to equalize through yer long, buried piece of metal. Over time, the flow of electrons carries metal with it. This is kept at bay via cathodic protection... putting a greater charge on the pipe than can be found in the ground and routing it toward (or away from -- like I said, I'm not an expert) a sacrificial anode. This usually works pretty well... or should.
    1. Erosion. This one is obvious. Much more rare than causes one or two but can make both or either worse. Effect is countered by use of friction reducers (stuff slicker than oil!).

    Here's the bottom line, whatever caused this (at places, evidently 81%) loss of pipe thickness, the REAL news comes when they find out just how widespread it is AND whether is affecting the TransAlaska line as well as BPs lines. Also, BP takes care of their metal. They do. They're good at it. If there's neglect involved, I doubt it's BP.

    Some process accelerated. Some very nasty process.

    THAT's the news!

    It rubs the loofah on its skin or else it gets the falafel again.

    by Fishgrease on Mon Aug 07, 2006 at 05:55:17 AM PDT

    •  Where did you see those thinning rates? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      GreyHawk

      That sounds more like erosion than corrosion, especially if it's internal.  

      •  One one of the news stories (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        lgmcp

        Don't remember which one. By now there are hundreds.

        Actually depending upon the scale (square millimeter, centimeter or meter), that sort of metal loss can occur with any of the causes.

        My wild assed guess is that a gradual temperature increase caused some big changes in corrosion rates. This temperature increase (if that's the problem) might have been cause because of an increase in ambient temperature (yeah, global warming) but is more likely caused by other factors. With the volume of product moved, atmospheric conditions should have very very little influence upon the temperature of the product or the pipe.

        We don't yet know whether these are pre-separation gathering lines or post. One might have water with the oil, the other, not.

        It's very hot downhole, a mile or more deep. A high volume oil well is also a geothermal well. The big boomers are hot. As some wells age, they make more water, which carries temperature to the surface better than oil. So they get hotter.

        All the above is rank conjecture, of course.

        It rubs the loofah on its skin or else it gets the falafel again.

        by Fishgrease on Mon Aug 07, 2006 at 06:33:39 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Too many possibilities right now (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          lgmcp

          Cheesed on the maintenance, and let the cathodic protection fail on some sections.

          Water in the oil being piped (would probably be very saline).

          some sort of erosion

          ground currents (hard to see in non-urban area unless someone built a power network next to the line)

          •  Yup (0+ / 0-)

            Like I said. I was conjecturneering.

            It rubs the loofah on its skin or else it gets the falafel again.

            by Fishgrease on Mon Aug 07, 2006 at 06:51:07 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  Earth currents (0+ / 0-)

            Let me say up front, I'm not an expert. My old man was, but he passed away ten years ago (I still miss him). He was an electrical engineer with Control Data for most of my life, but before that he worked for AT&T long lines dept.

            They saw "earth currents" all over their network, not just in urban areas. In fact, because the POTS is a balanced network (he worked for them in the late 50's to early 60's when pretty much everything was still analog -- they had just introduced touch tone dialing when he left to work for Control Data), meaning not crounded for common mode noise rejection (preventing thr network from becoming a massive radio antenna, for example), they used to use "Jesus sticks" to short network segments to earth before working on them (I'm almost certainly not using the right "lingo" here, this is a story he told me when I was a kid, so, heck, he might have been making it up, but given my light knolwedge, the story makes sense). They were called "Jesus sticks" because they kept you from seeing Jesus.

            The only point of my story is that I have thus heard anecdotally that current postientials, even fairly massive ones, occur naturally along any conductor in the environment. Now, my old man did say that the main cause was believed to be wind (air friction) induced static charge. So he was dealing with aboveut given around lines. I really don't know about buried cable, but given the fact that the ground both moves and is made of materials with vastly differing dielectric properties, it would make sense that there would be some hefty potential differences occurring naturally in the absence of any man made potential differences from electricity distribution.

            I'm wondering why you would think otherwise? (Bear my initially stated ignorance in mind -- I do not assume that I know even slightly more than you do -- quite the reverse. I just have this one contrary story from a revered father figure! ;-) )

            •  'Not crounded' (0+ / 0-)

              You know: The past tense of "to crown?"

              Er, I meant "not grounded."

            •  We're not disagreeing (0+ / 0-)

              Cathodic damage is common. Very. So common they have means of preventing it.

              But it's not the only possible cause of metal loss.

              It rubs the loofah on its skin or else it gets the falafel again.

              by Fishgrease on Mon Aug 07, 2006 at 08:35:49 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  No, but TJ said... (0+ / 0-)

                ground currents (hard to see in non-urban area unless someone built a power network next to the line)

                That's where my question lies. As I said, I'm not an expert, but I was raised by one who told me something contrary to the above. Something that does agree with you: cathodic damage is common. So, Fishgrease, you're right. But I was addressing the one statement by TJ, not anything you said.

                As far as the whole issue is concerned, having studied the issue of oil supply as avidly as a layman might, it is clear to me that we face two separate supply problems. One of them is obviously acute, and that is the immediate supply/production bottleneck caused by the lack of investment in critical infrastructure coupled with the political instability of many oil-producing regions. This is the proximate cause of the spiking of fuel prices.

                Lurking behind that is the looming specter of a global oil production peak (the famous "peak oil" issue), which I am convinced is very real, but which I cannot say for certain if it has been reached or if not, then when. Deffeyes and Simmons say we have. The EIA and others say we haven't. I'm not remotely qualified to judge (although I find Simmons' critique of Saudi reserve estimates to be rather compelling -- that doesn't mean the peak is here for sure).

                In a way, I hope the EIA is right AND that present supply/production issues continue. The best scenario would be (IMHO) for prices to continue to spike to force conservation and investment in alternatives. If that happened well before a global production peak, well, that would be good news.

                As far as BP goes, I'd have to say "kudos" for addressing this prior to an environmental catastrophe. To those who believe in a massive oil industry conspiracy to raise prices and profits, well, nothing is impossible (except maybe nasally fitted Cadillacs as Steve Martin pointed out), but fixing oil prices at a level that would actually lead to a recession or depression is not in the oil industry's interests. Such an event decreases consumption, which lowers those profits, even at high prices.

                So I'm afraid that give or take some price speculation and the fact that oil companies are certainly not charities, we are still looking at good old fashioned market action when it comes to the price of oil.

                I'm driving a company car, and it is burning E-85. Now I just wish I knew if I was burning more oil burning E-85 than I would be burning gasoline...  That is far from clear... But knowing that by using it I am helping fund the creation of newer, more efficient ethanol plants, knowing that I am showing demand for a fuel that can be produced more efficiently from wild grasses, knowing that I am helping fund an alternative transport fuel infrastructure feels pretty good.

                Sorry, I'm starting to ramble way off my point...

                Point was, Fishgrease, I was just questioning one thing TJ said, nothing you said!

                And I was (and am) fully prepared to be wrong about what I'm questioning. Being wrong is my superpower.

    •  Not trying to be snarky... (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      tryptamine, GreyHawk, lgmcp

      Could this be a result of global warming?  Alaska is experiencing the effects of global warming already and if those pipes were designed for one set of temperature parameters but are operating right now under another, could this accelerate corrosion?

      •  Too early to tell. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        tryptamine, lgmcp

        IIRC, the piplines are run at an elevated temp too reduce the oil viscosity.  If there is wall thinning on the pipe itself, there's something very bad happening.  External corrosion on a cathodically protected pipeline usually happens at some discontinuity, like a weld or fitting.  It's also totally obvious to even a casual inspection.  

        •  Exactly... (0+ / 0-)

          I used to know someone who spent five years up there as an inspector.  Even in the dead of winter she was out there, alone, in the worst conditions inspecting those pipes.  Regardless of the cause, I can't understand why this wasn't found sooner.  

      •  Not likely (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        lgmcp

        It would have to be global warming IN ADDITION to the producer not adapting their process to those changes.

        In this case, I doubt global warming (which I'm absitively exists) has much if anything to do with it.

        It rubs the loofah on its skin or else it gets the falafel again.

        by Fishgrease on Mon Aug 07, 2006 at 06:36:29 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Producer not adapting their process to changes (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          chillindame

          seems all too likely since the changes have accelerated so rapidly in recent years.

          Convincing top brass to spend more for preventive maintenance doesn't come easy in any industry, is my understanding -- even with big money at stake, humans tend to be reactive instead of proactive.  

          Per the scary and convincing graph's in Gore's move, it's only in the last 5 years to 10 years that we've rounded the shoulder to the near-vertical parts of the growth curves.  

          The extinction of the human race will come from its inability to EMOTIONALLY comprehend the exponential function -- Edward Teller.

          by lgmcp on Mon Aug 07, 2006 at 08:14:09 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site