EROEI in the Gulf of MexicoPosted: 04/28/2010
Yesterday I mentioned a concept called Energy Returned on Energy Invested. Oil, like many of the resources that make our economy go, requires more and more energy simply to obtain a unit of energy. When oil was discovered, you could get 100 barrels of oil or so for every barrel of oil of energy used in the extraction process. Today, because of sources like the tar sands and deep sea fields, it is difficult to obtain that energy. EROEI follows an exponential curve, and will become more and more difficult to obtain.
The recent BP Oil fire in the Gulf of Mexico is a case in point. Over 5000 barrels of oil have spilled into the Gulf. Robotic submarines are trying to secure the well:
“The robotic subs are 5,000 feet below sea level, trying to shut off the leaking oil well. It looks like a small version of NASA’s Mission Control in Houston. But unlike the moon, this alien landscape is beyond the reach of human beings, no matter what kind of protective suit they might wear.”
The Coast Guard believes that it will possibly take 90 more days to secure the source. The blowout preventer valve:
“should have been the first line of defense. It is a massive high temperature, high pressure valve rated at 15,000 pounds per square inch. It sits on the ocean floor atop the well casing. The valve was designed to automatically choke off the kind of catastrophic blowout which is suspected of causing the explosion and fire, killing the 11 oil workers and destroying the rig. It also has several back up mechanisms to stop oil from leaking from the wellhead, even after disaster.”
Right now BP is spending $2 Million per day, simply to keep the oil from going ashore. This entire effort is emblematic of the diminishing EROEI.