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Drilling is only the beginning

By Staff | Nov 4, 2009

To the editor,

Before our State Congressmen can make an intelligent decision regarding permitting the oil companies to drill for oil in Florida’s coastal waters, they need to understand what is required to extract this oil from the reservoir and deliver it to a refinery as well as the potential for oil spills in every step. The requirements will be a function of the type of oil that is discovered and the locations where it is discovered and its destination point in a refinery.

If the oil has an appreciable amount of gas mixed with it, than this gas may have to be separated from the oil before the oil is pumped to its storage facility. Likewise, if there is a lot of water mixed with the oil it may be most economical to separate the water before pumping the oil to storage. What will be done with this dirty water? One possibility might be to reinject it back into the reservoir to help maintain reservoir pressure.

If the oil is found offshore the western part of the state, say offshore Pensacola, it may be economically feasible to pipe it to one or more of the Gulf Coast refineries. However if the oil reservoir is found further east, or south, say offshore Tampa, Fort Myers, Naples or even Key West, extracting the oil becomes more complex. From the wellhead, the oil might go, via pipelines, to a storage facility and then from there to a tanker for shipment to a refinery.

Storage could be either in an on shore tank farm preferably located near the loading facility, or in an offshore floating storage facility such as a supertanker moored to a buoy. The transporting tanker would moor alongside or behind the floating storage and hoses would be passed from one vessel to the other. The oil would be pumped, via these hoses, from the storage tanker to the transporting tanker.

If storage tanks are built on shore, either an oil loading dock or a floating mooring would most likely be required to moor the transporting tanker while the oil is pumped to it through pipelines and loading hoses.

The entire system works well in many places. There have been, from time to time, oil spills from burst or dropped hoses, etc. In many places that are not as environmentally sensitive as is Southwest Florida, these accidents do not cause the economic loss that Florida would suffer from its damaged tourist trade and the damage to its wildlife and ecology such a spill would bring.

I urge our State Congresspersons to become familiar with all aspects of delivering oil from an offshore oil field to a refinery – and its potential risk – before casting his/her vote permitting offshore drilling. Drilling is only the beginning.

Bernard M. Lubetkin