Monday, April 18, 2011

Strategic Petroleum Reserve

A "barrel" of crude oil is 42 gallons.   The US produces about 9M barrels a day.  Every day.  What freaks me out, though, is that we store 727M barrels  inside caverns of salt.  

And I can't stop thinking about it.
Bayou actually leaching, which means the salt is...melting, or something I might have learned in Earth Science but no longer understand. 76 million barrels' worth are supposed to live there, but they need to be moved, says the Secretary of Energy, or maybe just sold.  Or how 'bout this idea: "Congress has authorized the Energy Department to spend $33.5 million for a replacement, and officials are buying a privately owned cavern - also in the Bayou Choctaw salt dome - with a 10-million-barrel capacity."

A privately owned salt cavern .

West Hackberry: the other reserve in Louisiana.  Pleasantly located near the Hackberry Recreation Area and Lake Charles.  227 Million barrels here.   If you are trying to visualize 227 million of something, there are 300 M people in the United States.  Picture them as squat metal cans.  Hell, just picture that New York street in Tootsie as Dustin Hoffman walking between squat metal cans.  That's freaky enough.

And it's not even the biggest.  254 Million barrels are tucked into Bryan Mound, TX.  Perhaps because it is the biggest, it has the best press.  "... a young mining engineer by the name of Bernard Baruch discovered a salt dome..."  We have a salt dome in  Massachusetts -- but it is not naturally occurring.  (we don't think)

That's actually a sale pile, not a dome.  We wouldn't be able to store our oil barrels in it.
After Bryan passed his last cloud of sulfur, it seemed only fitting that we would turn it into the mattress we stash our mad oil in.

It isn't really stored in barrels, like a nation of hoarders might do.  It's in there loose and oozy -- all the better to "draw down."  This is the best FAQ I found about that.

My favorite Strategic Petroleum Reserve has to be Big Hill - Winnie, Texas.  Not just because its name simultaneously evokes Texas pomposity and aw-shucksiness, but because the Big Hill got B Roll!  Lots of it.  But I still can't get my mind around what the devil a salt cavern is.  I didn't have the bandwidth to launch any of the videos (or the CIA needed more time to capture my IP address).

SPRs are born..and they die.  Competing for an oil reserve is not quite like applying for the Olympic Games.  You have to have the primary requirement of having a salt dome, or knowing how to make one -- which Richton, MS does.  Weeks Island was retired, in 1999, due to sinkhole-related disorders. It reads exactly like the kind of lurking problem on your own job that you might menrion to management and they would say "what do you want me to do," and you would again be grateful that nothing truly important hinges on the response of your management team.

I loved this uniquely American sentence:  "This facility was a conventional room and pillar near-surface salt mine, formerly owned by Morton Salt."  I was determined to find an image of the Weeks Island sinkhole -- it was 36 feet wide in 1995!  I was not successful, but here is some seismic velocity tomography, whatever that is.

related freakouts:
Centralia, PA
Yucca Mountain
The Granite Mountain Record Vault
That hole in Guatemala

1 comment:

  1. So at $4 bucks a gallon, we are storing $123,133,000,000 worth of oil. I'm thinking that's trillion, but I deal in 10's of dollars, so am not sure! Wonder what dumping that on the market would do to our economy? or to the priced of gasoline at the pump?


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