Oil Pipelines: Are they worth the price & effort?
Written by Professor Arthur Cohen B.A., M.A.
(561) 509-6345 Email: Artmcohen@gmail.com
Clearly when it comes to moving
large quantities of oil from massive oilfields, few means of transport can
equal the efficiency of a pipeline. When
oil fields are landlocked, there is possibly no other reasonable alternative. The
Prudhoe Bay oil field in
1. Pipelines are only cost effective for extremely large oil or gas fields or to ship large quantities on a consistent basis.
2. Pipelines are extremely expensive to build.
3. They usually take years to construct and so you won’t see production come online quickly.
4. Construction presents many environmental concerns.
5. Pipeline Dependency. While pipelines are efficient, what happens when the pipeline fails and has to be shut down for repairs or is attacked by terrorists? How then can we continue supplying the oil that is needed?
6. Pipelines must be maintained. Sludge build-up and corrosion occurs. According to “engineering experts,” corrosion can’t be stopped, only controlled with continuous maintenance. The projected cost of replacing and repairing the BP Alaska pipeline is $200,000,000.
pipelines lead to steady dependence on supply and when a pipeline is shut down,
for any reason, all supply stops. Buckeye Pipeline Failure Thursday and Friday
2/8/07 and 2/9/07 shut down fuel delivery to
8. Areas exposed to seismic activity place pipelines at risk.
are vulnerable to terrorists as we have seen in
10. In addition
to terrorists, pipelines are vulnerable to thieves also. A gas pipeline in
11. The environmental impact of a leak could also be catastrophic. An accidental leak in the BP Alaskan pipeline spilled 5,500 barrels of oil in March 2006 according to what was reported. This was pure negligence and lack of proper maintenance.
12. An oil pipeline from
break into an oil pipeline in
Can we afford to rely so heavily on pipelines and are there any alternatives? When an oil field is near water, there might be another choice. The Seasnake is a unique shipping system that is capable of moving in shallow water that tankers can’t enter. Because of a lower draft design, it can travel shallow coastal water or into river systems. Unlike a tanker that can’t enter coastal areas or barges that aren’t ocean worthy, the Seasnake is capable of doing both. The Seasnake combines the best qualities of barges and tankers and adds many advantages of its own. Motorship Magazine, Jan. 2001, likened it to “a railroad train at sea not restricted by the tracks.” By adding barges, it can carry the equivalent of medium or large tankers. However, when coming to ports, it can be disconnected so as to fit into smaller dock spaces and is not as dependent on tides and tight channels as larger tankers are. Not only is it cheaper to build and operate than a comparable tanker, it can be built in many smaller shipyards that couldn’t handle larger tankers thereby making for more dependable production. If in the event one of the barges is damaged, it is only necessary to replace one barge unit. Not only is this less expensive than repairing a ship, it minimizes downtime. The mother ship and caboose both have transport power so that the latter could take over in the event that the mothership becomes damaged or inoperative. In addition, the mother-ship and caboose also have storage capacity.
Homo sapiens are an ingenious species “always looking to build a better mousetrap.” However, at the same time, they are resistant to change. As Lee Iacocca once said “Lead, follow or get out of the way.” It is the leaders who get a jump start on their competitors. The Seasnake will revolutionize shipping and it is only a matter of time before you see them entering a harbor near you.