Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Blogger Overload - Things I Haven't Posted From Erin's Law To Shell Arctic Drilling

There is a bunch of posts still listed as drafts in my blog index of posts.  Some will never see the light of day because there are more important things, they've been partly incorporated in other posts, or they are old and the topic's been covered enough elsewhere.

The battle between living and blogging is sometimes easy and sometimes hard.  Ideally, the blog captures bits and pieces of life as I live it.  But my kids have said the grandchildren are off limits for the blog, so reflections on their growing language skills ("The rocket's at my house") and other motor skills (crawling up and down the wheel chair ramp at my mom's house) don't get chronicled here, though I think they are significant, not just for me, but for the world.  This point was made today by someone who spent about ten minutes on an older post about infants learning sign language. 

Some posts are partly or largely written.  Others are just notes.  Here are some examples.

What signs from the Supreme Court hearing on Obergefell are worth attending to get a sense of what their decision might be and the implications for the future?

Shell Arctic Drilling
I did a fair amount of reporting on Shell's previous Arctic drilling plans  (for example) and the later fiasco with Kulluk.  You might look at the link on the plans.  Those were last time.  I've looked quickly at parts of the new ones.  My issue then was that they were more PR than actual operational plans of what to do.  This time it seems there is more detail, but still a lot missing.  For example, there's this sort of reassuring language, that reminds me a lot of the reassuring (but incorrect) language they had in 2013.
"Operational Monitoring:
Operational monitoring is conducted to minimize the potential of penetrating an overpressure

zone resulting in a loss of hydrostatic overbalance.
  1. 1)  Flow checks are conducted with the pumps off to confirm the static mud weight over balances pore pressure.
  2. 2)  Frequent pit drills and mock well control drills are planned and conducted.
  3. 3)  Drilling Contractor / Shell Staff have relevant and current Well Control Certificates.
  4. 4)  Shell requires its operational staff to attend and pass its internal Advanced Well Control Training.
  5. 5)  Real Time monitoring of the well and operational parameters is conducted by the Real Time Operations Center that is staffed by a team of experts. Any anomalous signals or indications are immediately relayed to the rig.
This extra set of monitoring provides a secondary team of individuals to monitor the wells status and minimize the potential for loss of situation awareness by the drilling team" [from page 2/6 Well Control Plan which is in a zip file linked at Appendices and Attachments on this page at this Bureau of Oceans and Environment Management (BOEM) page. ]
"loss of situational awareness' was a big red flag for me.  Here's a post I did on that phrase back in 2010:  Euphemism Alert!! What the hell is "Lack of Situational Awareness"?
I understand that there's an art to giving an overview, and I have yet to probe deep enough in all the documents to find out if there are more operational details than this. 

For instance,
1)   how often the flow checks are conducted and where the results of those tests go and how quickly and how quickly do government regulators see them? 
2)  What does 'frequent'?  I'd like to see some numbers - once a week, once a month (I don't know what's reasonable) - and records kept and reported that they happened and what was learned from each drill and what improvements were made based on the drill. 
3/4) should be expanded somewhere to list the job titles of the "Shell staff" and "operational staff" and the names of the people in those positions with a list of the specific certificates they have, when they got them,  plus links to what the training includes and what the certificate guarantees the staff know and can perform. 
5) how about a list of the 'team of experts' including their name and expertise and how their expertise is determined.

It's in Shell's interest that all this rhetoric is backed up, but I know these things are written to get approval.  I'd like to know that BOEM is getting more detail than this.  BUT, it may be in there somewhere, I just haven't had the time to read it all and then find the people I can ask my questions of.  So, these posts are still unwritten. 

Then there's this somewhat disturbing prospect:
The estimated total duration from the initial mooring to well kill pumping through a relief well would be approximately 28 days for a Burger blowout (Table 1). In the event of a blowout, the secondary rig if located at the Burger Prospect, will cease drilling, suspend the well so that it cannot flow, recover its BOP stack and moorings, and transit to the relief well drill site. In this case, the estimated duration of flow prior to drilling a relief well to intersection with the original wellbore and killing the flow is approximately 34 days (six days to mobilize and moor and 28 days to kill the well). If the secondary rig is located in Dutch Harbor, the rig will transit from Dutch Harbor to the relief well drill site. The rig will initiate relief well drilling operations upon arrival and mooring and will remain at the site through plugging operations on both the relief well and the blowout well. The max additional time required will be to unmoor in Dutch Harbor, transit to relief well site, and moor is an estimated 10 days (10 days to mobilize and moor and 28 days to kill the well).  [emphasis added] [Page 2-5 from
Revised Outer Continental Shelf Lease Exploration PlanChukchi Sea, AlaskaBurger Prospect:Posey Area Blocks 6714, 67626764, 6812, 6912, 6915Chukchi Sea Lease Sale 193]
I don't know what sort of damage can happen in 28 days, and I need to check.  But I suspect it won't be pretty. 

But I also know that Shell has huge incentives for everything to go right.  Not only are accidents costly to them in lost time and equipment, they are disastrous in terms of public opinion and the future obstacles that result.  So Shell surely wants things to go well, wants to get oil as quickly as they can with no mishaps.  I don't question their intentions to have no serious problems.  The question is their ability to carry it out.

They have a lot of smart people, but many of them are smart in a narrow area of knowledge.  But I have lots of reading to do, and questions to ask before I tackle this for real.  And I may or may not get there.  

Erin's Law
This bill still hasn't been passed.  I've emailed the representatives who voted against it (only Rep. Tammy Wilson has responded) and I've got what the ADN says their reasons for opposing it are.  But I need to get a bit more information.


Tanaina preschool followup, mayoral election reflections, left over press club conference thoughts, the university searches for a president and Fairbanks chancellor, and it goes on. 
And then there are a dozen posts in my head that haven't gotten into writing even.

And it's essentially summer in Alaska and Denali calls for a visit before the buses are taking the tourists in.

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