Thursday, April 01, 2010

Why No Drilling off the Pacific Northwest Coast?

I thought it was interesting that among the (relatively few) places excluded from Obama's decision to ramp up offshore drilling was the coast off of northern California, Oregon, and Washington.

Why was that? I don't have any inside information, but I wonder how much the Pacific Northwest's strong environmental ethos played a part. Unlike anywhere I've ever lived, there is a strong concern here for the environment and sustainability, as witnessed by the environmental attitudes of Seattle, Portland, and many smaller cites here. In fact, you should read the 1975 novel Ecotopia, descibing a breakaway state based on environmental sustainability. It was based in the Pacific Northwest, and it's difficult for me to imagine it set anywhere else.

Is there oil and gas here worth pursuing? Not much oil, but a lot of gas in the form of methane hydrates:
One other critical question, of course, is whether there are resources off of the Oregon Coast that would attract oil and gas interests. It was, in fact interest in mining the sands in Southern Oregon for oil that prompted Oregon's earlier moratorium. Offshore reserves of oil and gas in their traditional form are relatively small but not insignificant. The most recent numbers available from the Minerals Management Service indicate oil and gas deposits totaling $200 million in net value (after accounting for the costs of production). That figure was calculated at oil prices of $48 per barrel and as the price of oil rises, so will interest in our coast.
In addition, just off the Oregon Coast is one of the few places in North America where there are large stores of gas in form called methane hydrate. Methane hydrate is essentially a crystalline form of gas trapped in ice. It forms under unique environmental conditions that happen to exist where the two tectonic plates off the Oregon Coast meet. The energy potential of methane hydrate is estimated at 200 times the conventional natural gas resources in the country. These resources cannot currently be extracted commercially, but research and development is proceeding quickly in Japan, and one estimate has it that the first domestic production could happen off of Alaska within 10 years.
Perhaps the real story is that there just isn't much here that would be worth drilling. On the other other hand, it's hard to see the citizens of Oregon standing for it against what really is one of the most beautiful shorelines in the world.


rhhardin said...

He wants to get a little Republican support for cap and trade while irritating his enviropeople as little as possible. He's a vote down in the Senate.

A study is all that's proposed.

No drilling will actually happen anywhere, is the probable plan.

Dano said...

Agreed with Ron. Just casting about for votes.



Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

I remember catching grunion in Southern California. The fish would come on shore between waves and lay their eggs. You were able to catch them between waves ,and it was great fun when they were running. We caught a lot of fish, but were unable to eat anything that we caught; all the fish were polluted. They all tasted like petroleum.
We don't have Grunion here, but we do have fish in Oregon. I would sure hate catching petroleum tasting fish