From the Editor
is alive with the dynamic tension and synergy of technology, environmental protection
and resource development that resonate throughout the petroleum industry. The
challenges, risks and opportunities are monumental.
A series of shorter pieces on worldwide exploration and development hot
spots sets the scene testifying just how hungry we all are for
petroleum. The need for heat and power drives production in these geographically
diverse areas, including Iraq, West Africa, Libya, Russia, Canada and Venezuela.
Exploration and production in these regions must deal with terrorism, political
intrigue, graft, technological super-challenges and petroleum that will not
flow without a lot of help.
In the United States, our quest for energy has led to an energy policy stalemate
between environmentalism and industry, with antagonism to offshore drilling
deeper and wider than it was in the 1970s, according to Frank Manheim
in U.S. Offshore Oil Industry: New Perspectives on an Old Conflict.
Thats really saying something when you consider that the decade preceding
the 1970s started with Rachel Carsons Silent Spring and ended with the
Santa Barbara oil spill and the landmark environmental legislation of the 1969-1972
period. In striking contrast, Norway has been exploiting its offshore energy
resources rapidly, even while the country pursues environmental protections,
including a large-scale carbon sequestration project. Production there has built
a $130 billion national fund as a hedge against fluctuating petroleum prices
and ultimate depletion of reservoirs. That is natural resource management at
its best (see Geotimes, December 2003, for other examples). Why are the
Norwegians somehow managing the chaotic interplay of technology, free enterprise,
sustainability, politics and the environment better than the Americans?
One petroleum technology with environmental potential that is starting to reach
global proportions is passive seismic, as Geotimes Managing
Editor Lisa Pinsker describes in A Passive Approach to Healthy Oil Drilling.
Passive seismic takes advantage of natural tremors and small earthquakes deep
in Earth generated by drilling, fluid withdrawal or injections into reservoirs
to characterize subsurface environments. The petroleum industry has become
interested in the technology for mapping reservoirs and changes therein associated
with traditional and enhanced petroleum recovery. Looking to the future, passive
seismic could be applicable to water management in aquifers and could help monitor
injection of gas carbon dioxide, from coal-fired and other fossil fuel plants,
into depleted petroleum reservoirs. Thats almost poetic: from ashes
to ashes, ... carbon to carbon.
As you finish this issue on petroleum, you might want to flip back to the September
2004 issue of Geotimes and revisit the Energy & Resources news story
Booking and Rebooking Oil Reserves. Described are a rash of write-downs
and downgrading of petroleum reserves, somehow reminiscent of the widely publicized
accounting scandals of late. How can we drill resources beneath 7,600 feet of
ocean water and still find it difficult to make defensible reserve estimates?
It is a complex system, with many challenges still ahead.
Hopefully, this issue can help shed light on the complex world of petroleum
the next time you fill up at the pump, see if the price makes more or
less sense. Thanks to our authors and happy reading to you.
Believe your compass, but make your largess sustainable,
Samuel S. Adams