Then & Now - April 2021

Then & Now - April 2021

APRIL 2006

Hurricanes Katrina and Rita battered people and structures in the Gulf of Mexico and along the Gulf Coast, leaving many large-scale renovation projects and rising rig rates in their wakes. Many rigs were damaged, not surprising, given that design guidelines for offshore platforms set by the American Petroleum Institute require that a structure only need withstand a “100-year storm,” equivalent to a Category 2 or 3 hurricane, with sustained winds at 110 mph. API guidelines also require that a platform be able to withstand waves up to about 70 ft high. But waves during the last few big hurricanes reached well beyond this height. The Naval Research Lab recorded a 91-ft wave more than 100 miles from the eye of Ivan last year.

Driven by concerns over stability, China is stepping up cooperation with its neighbors, aiming to secure supplies of oil and natural gas from regional sources instead of the Middle East. China is especially eager to secure deals to receive oil and gas from neighboring countries by pipeline, as Chinese leaders view pipelines as safer than delivery by sea. Chinese President Hu Jintao signed agreements with Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov for Turkmenistan to sell China natural gas and to build a pipeline to deliver it. Under terms of the agreements, China will purchase 30 billion cu m/year of natural gas from Turkmenistan over 30 years. They also signed a joint pledge to crack down on terrorism and extremism - a reference to their common fear of radical Islamic groups.

Light sweet crude: $66.09/bbl

Natural gas: $7.24/MMbtu

U.S. active rig count: 1,578 

APRIL 2011

How can we cut emissions of greenhouse gas: Shrink the economy, and burn less coal. These lessons emerge in a US Energy Information Administration report showing that human-induced emissions of GHGs by the world's favorite global-warming villain fell by more in 2009 than in any year since records began in 1990. Carbon dioxide, the main regulatory target, dominated the 5.8% decline. EIA gives three primary reasons for the lower emissions: economic recession, the particularly heavy setbacks of energy-intensive industries, and fuel-switching by power generators to natural gas from coal, encouraged by falling gas prices. Largely because of economic slowdown, the US rate of growth in energy-related CO2 emissions fell in every year since 2005 except 2007. The energy intensity of the economy—the amount of energy consumed to generate a unit of growth—fell by an average of 1.9%/year over that period as well as during 1990-2005.

Responding to concern in the US about $4/gal gasoline, President Barack Obama voices new support for an old program certain to raise the price of energy in a speech at Georgetown University. The president used most of his speech to promote his agenda for replacing commercial energy, such as oil, with supposedly clean energy, most forms of which are too costly to compete without taxpayer subsidies. He didn't identify the economic benefit to be derived from displacing energy that's sometimes costly with energy that's always even costlier. The president broke new ground by first professing to support domestic oil and gas production then proposing to do quite the opposite.

"To keep reducing that reliance on imports," he said, "my administration is encouraging offshore oil exploration and production—as long as it's safe and responsible." As evidence, Obama offered two examples. The administration is issuing permits again in the Gulf of Mexico under toughened safety standards after last year's Macondo tragedy. The other way the administration is encouraging production is by "pushing the oil industry to take advantage of the opportunities that they've already got," Obama said. "Right now the industry holds tens of millions of acres of leases where they're not producing a single drop."

Light sweet crude: $73.16/bbl

Natural gas: $3.89/MMbtu

APRIL 2016

Janeen Judah, SPE president-elect, tells reporters after a luncheon speech that she personally believes some key emerging IOR tech advancements are cost-effective polymers and successful field pilots using nanoparticles.

Nanoparticles were the subject of an SPE paper describing the application of nanofluids for improving oil mobility in heavy oil and extra heavy oil. It outlined the field evaluation of nanofluids for improving oil mobility in Colombia's heavy oil fields. The authors for that paper explained that the size of nanoparticles makes them valuable in IOR applications. 

The Eastern Mediterranean continues to be a region where multiple conflicts are superimposed on each other, including the Syrian civil war, conflicts with ISIS, and the refugee situation. The rift between Israel and Turkey has grown, and Turkey continues to refuse to recognize the Republic of Cyprus, which wants to lease tracts to its immediate south. Diplomats, politicians, and journalists maintain gas resources could provide an incentive for cooperation. Energy companies are more skeptical, however. There was excitement when the Tamal field was found in 2009 and Leviathan, Aphrodite, and Zohr fields were discovered in Serious questions have grown about security and market potential. Noble Energy, the major US player there, has reduced its Mediterranean budget. Israel and other stakeholders will need to show more support if they expect the resources to be fully developed.

Light sweet crude: $37.26/bbl

Natural gas: $1.97/MMbtu

U.S. active rig count: 443


This month we continue a lookback at the era of “The Texans,” as the rising stars of the Texas establishment arrive in their helicopter, private planes, and limousines for a very influential south Texas barbecue.

Then suddenly it appeared -- three thousand acres of vernal profusion, Picosa, a literal oasis amongst scrub cottonwood, hackberry, and mesquite. As planes circled overhead, the visitors viewed the green coastal Bermuda grass, like so much Astroturf. As the planes settled lower and lower, the stone ranch house became clearly visible, set among ancient live oaks with its yellow-and-white awning resplendent in the setting sun. A herd of sleek, cherry-red Santa Gertrudis cattle crowded the fence, while cowboys posed on horses observed the planes coming in for a landing. The President’s massive Marine Corps helicopter stood isolated and flanked by young men in business suits and sunglasses. The men and women disembarking felt a pride of heritage in the sight of the equestrian silhouettes. Some of the guests joked amongst themselves about the cowhands cutting the little planes out from among the larger Lears, Falcons, and even a four-engine Jetstar, the only one in private ownership.

Some of the planes were less than great, holdovers from an earlier magnificence. There was the Murchisons’ Flying Jenny, a white, propellor-driven DC-3, specially fitted with a picture window. John Murchison and his brother Clint, Jr., scions of one of the great oil fortunes, owners of the Dallas Cowboys and untold investments, found the old Jenny comfortable. But hours later, after the festivities were over and the planes had dispersed toward Houston, Dallas, Fort Worth, Amarillo, Austin, Midland, Victoria, Denton, Marathon, Sherman, and Corpus Christi, members of the Hunt party would hear the Murchisons’ pilot on the radio angrily contending with a low-level thunderstorm.

The Hunts’ Lear – a demonstrator on loan from a hopeful salesman – would streak safely home, thirty thousand feet above the clouds.

Next month, so who’s at the barbecue and who’s not?


What was the first Gulf of Mexico well completed out of sight of land?

If you would like to participate in this month’s quiz, e-mail your answer to by noon, April 15. The winner, who will be chosen randomly from all correct answers, will receive a $50 gift card to a nice restaurant (courtesy of the ProTechnics Division of Core Laboratories).


I was an officer in the armed forces, spent a few years in the lumber business in Michigan, and three years mining salt in Louisiana, before becoming a noted wildcatter. I am Captain Anthony F. Lucas of Spindletop fame. 


Robert Urbanowski with Precision Drilling