Jeffrey Nelson’s letter of May 9 tries to convey a sense of safety that new technology will bring to offshore drilling. He feels that underwater drilling platforms guided from miles away will somehow prevent oil spills. What he fails to mention is that technology quite often fails.
Combine remote control with a platform many miles beneath the surface, and you are asking for disaster. Yet his premise is that if it is underwater and you can’t see it, it must be safe.
I lived in Atlanta during the BP oil disaster and had the privilege of hearing lectures by Dr Samantha Joye, a University of Georgia Marine Science Professor and researcher who spent countless hours on the Gulf of Mexico waters and submersed below, for weeks after the spill, and she has returned several times since.
Since I follow her research, I am still convinced that offshore oil drilling is pure folly and should never be invited to South Carolina, where I've now retired.
Consider this: The Deepwater Horizon drilling platform was using proven technology and, according to the government investigation, failed because of human error and gross negligence. No amount of new technology will eliminate causes like that.
Cement is pumped between the well casing and the sediment layers to protect the metal wall from gas pressure and from gas leaking up the outside of the pipe. The cementing was apparently not done properly and failed. When the cement failed, natural gas rocketed to the surface and the Deepwater Horizon exploded, killing 11 people.
Add to that the fact that Deepwater Horizon had multiple “failsafe” systems, all of which proved useless. The blowout preventer was equipped with four “Blind Rams.” These rams are designed to close off the well in the event that the mud control is overwhelmed. The problem is that they only work if the drill pipe is withdrawn from the well. There was no time to do that.
The other failsafe system was the “Shear Ram,” which is designed to close off the well by cutting through the drill pipe in the event of a blowout. The problem was that the “Shear Ram” won’t cut through a joint where two pieces of drill pipe are connected. That joint just happened to be where the shear ram was supposed to cut. As a result, 207 million gallons of oil were spilled into the Gulf of Mexico, and 1,100 miles of shoreline were inundated with crude oil.
According to the Institute for Southern Studies:
- 450 miles of shore were still contaminated by oil 2 years later
- 60 percent of the oil spilled remains unaccounted for
- 75 percent of residents exposed to crude oil or dispersants have health problems
- 40 percent of commercial and recreational fishing closed
- fishermen reported an 80 percent drop in catches
All of that because of human error and a drill pipe joint that happened to be in the wrong place.
The oil extracted from offshore drilling is not intended to be sold in the United States. The government estimates that the U.S. has proven reserves of oil and natural gas to last 85 years. Offshore drilling is only for the benefit of the oil companies.
It is not safe, it never will be safe, we do not need it, and should not allow it.
The writer lives in Murrells Inlet.