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Alternative Energies

  • May 4, 2011
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By Dr. Joseph S. Maresca

A Presidential Call to Action on the Gulf Cleanup and An Energy Transition from Fossil Fuels   6- 16- 2010

Last night, President Obama reported to the nation on particulars of the oil spill cleanup in the Gulf. Oil continues to spill from one mile underwater, although 90% of the leaked oil will be captured. The goal is that by summer's end, the leak will cease. Approximately 17,000 National Guard’s people are working across 4 states. The process of burning and skimming oil continues. There will be new barrier islands constructed, as well as additional booms. The aim is to recover and restore the Gulf to its original beauty. A fund will be established under independent control of a 3rd party.

Efforts are under way to ensure that an incident like this will never occur again. A National Commission will be established to investigate the causes of the explosion on April 20, 2010. The President would like to know all the relevant facts of the current spill prior to allowing any more drilling offshore. The Minerals Management Service was criticized for creating an atmosphere hostile to regulation. In effect, oil companies wrote their own regulations according to the President.

The drilling for offshore oil poses greater risks. The drilling goes on because we are running out of places to drill on land. The consequences of our inaction are readily determinable. Nonetheless, there must be a rational transition from fossil fuels to alternative energies via efficient windows, wind energy and clean energy technologies. The President emphasized that clean energy is profitable and that thousands of good jobs will flow from the effort. The long term costs of not pursuing clean energy will impact our economy, security and environment. The President referenced the "Blessing of the Fleet" which anticipates safety and success for seabound travelers. We all look forward with strength, courage and the prospect of attaining something better. We will.



Overall, the President's speech addressed the major areas. The oil spill will be cleaned up via a continuing process of drilling relief wells, burning, skimming and loading empty tankers with recoverable oil, as was done by Aramco.

What caused the spill? Most likely, unchecked leaking gas precipitated the crisis. Testimony has surfaced in dribbles which indicates that key personnel knew of the oncoming dangers well in advance of the explosion. How do we prevent a future recurrence? Simply put, we decommission the offshore drilling at the first signs of classic troubles like gas leaks. Anticipatory repairs and maintenance can be done to lessen the likelihood of a catastrophic event like the April 20th spill. There are artificial intelligence systems in place to centralize expert advice for entry onto the knowledge base by the knowledge engineer.

Cloud computing is available to assist in centralizing data on a company level and even an industry level. There are methodologies in place to manage trouble escalation more rationally.

These methodologies are:

o Mean Time Between Failure for anticipatory repairs- most engineered equipment has a pre-defined failure threshold

o Contingency Planning and rehearsals to lessen the downside of out-of-the-norm events that come up routinely

o Disaster Recovery Planning and rehearsals to place the most effective strategies in place before an exigency occurs like a hurricane

o Monitoring offshore drilling productivity for signs of operating at or over 100% capacity

o Reviewing new patent art for offshore drilling to take full advantage of new technologies and techniques.  i.e. gas leak detection patents

o Special studies on offshore drilling forces of nature like Mohrs circle, compressive and tension forces

There was a call for more rigorous regulatory reform. First, let's look at what the UK has in place.

UK Offshore Safety Regulations

There are 4 sets of UK regulations which are applicable to this particular sector and BP when operating in the UK. 

They are:

a) The Offshore Installation (Safety Case) Regulations 1992 -  all mobile and fixed offshore installations which operate in UK waters must have a safety case which requires that all safety critical elements on installations must be approved by the Health and Safety Executive

b) The Offshore Installations (Prevention of Fire and Explosion and Emergency Response) Regulations 1995 -These regulations are aimed at protecting offshore workers from fire and explosions. In addition, proper procedures are to be in place to provide a rapid response from emergency services should a fire or explosion occur.

c) The Offshore Installation and Pipeline Works (Management and Administration) Regulations 1995 - is aimed at the safe management of offshore installations, generally.

d) The Offshore Installations and Wells (Design and Construction, etc) Regulations 1996 - are concerned with the safety of offshore and onshore wells, the integrity of installations and the overall safety of the offshore working environment.  Source: UK Offshore Regulations

The alternative energy technologies are progressing on every level.  i.e. institutional, entrepreneurial and governmental in places like China. The "Artificial Sun" is aimed at producing virtual power. Solar, ocean wave and geothermal energies are aimed at utilizing nature to produce power. Coal gasification is an upcoming alternative as is shale, zig-zag drilling and the Bakken properties.  Natural gas is another popular alternative for implementation in autos and elsewhere. Certain biofuels like oils produced by plants and algae are a product of photosynthesis.  Waste treatment, fermentation and reuse of restaurant grease/cooking oils hold promise for the future. The smart power grid and hybrid cars are growing areas.

There is a marvelous partnership between Chrysler and A123 Systems for the development of a high-energy lithium battery for automobiles made by Fiat. A $2B stimulus loan from the Advanced Technology Manufacturing Incentive Program is targeted at building plants to manufacture the new lithium car batteries built by A 123 Systems.

Grama and White studied how milk was made in India. Then, they proceeded to blend Grama's knowledge of Thermodynamics with advances in photovoltaics. The pair looks forward to manufacturing solar powered refrigerators run by simple microprocessors. The solar cooler could preserve cow's milk, yogurt and medicines in villages throughout the world lacking electricity.

Saturn's orange moon Titan has hundreds of times more liquid hydrocarbons than all the known oil and natural gas reserves on Earth. (NASA's Cassini spacecraft). Admittedly, aggressive exploration of Saturn is the work of the next century. We must anticipate the next century now because the earth will have 10 billion people by that time.

Joseph S. Maresca Ph.D., CPA, CISA, MBA: His significant writings include over 10 copyrights in the name of the author (Joseph S. Maresca) and a patent in the earthquake sciences. He holds membership in the prestigious Delta Mu Delta National Honor Society and Sigma Beta Delta International Honor Society.  In addition, he blogs and reviews many books for Basil & Spice. Visit the Joseph S. Maresca Writer's Page.

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