Lawmaker Sees How Drilling Deeper Might Wean Us from Foreign Dependence

A Houston lawmaker gets a rare three-dimensional tour on how drilling in the deep gulf waters is possible. The effort will someday relieve the country's dependance on foreign oil. Pat Hernandez has the story.
Woodlands Republican Congessman Kevin Brady got to tour the Chevron Texaco Virtualization Center. It's a state-of-the-art facility that enables the monitoring of the company's oil field caled TAHITI, located 190 miles off the Louisiana coast in the Gulf of Mexico. Barney Issen is senior staff geophysicist. He's been with Chevron for 25 years. He marvels at how far and deep technology has taken the quest for energy.

"When we were first pursuing this stuff back 15-20 years ago, it seemed unrealistic. So, you were able to accomplish a half-baked numerical plan on a Cray [supercomputer] that took three months. Where's that gonna go? And, even if it succeeds, who's gonna every drill it? But, you ride the crest of Moore's law and just hope it doesn't crash you into the beach."

Issen says the search for the liquid gold is very competitive.

"It's constantly a leap frog. There was a while there where we had reason to believe we were ahead of the pack in the seismic imaging world. We had proprietary algorithms that clearly no one else had. Everyone else has caught up on that and we think our advantage now comes in the salt models that feed that. But, you never know if you're deluding yourself. It's a secretive business. It's very hard to bench mark how you're doing against the competitors sometimes."

Floating in waters four thousand feet deep is a 60-story tall platform that one day will pump more than 125 thousand barrels of oil a day. That might seem like a drop in the barrel, when compared to the 20 million barrels of oil that consumed each day in the United States. With nearly 75% of the world's oil reserves controlled by foreign countries where U.S. companies are not allowed to operate, or face too many restrictions, Congressman Brady says there is real incentive for companies to explore drilling options.

"Even though the oil in deep ocean waters won't be produced tomorrow, making the committment today is gonna be worth all the while for the country on dependancy but, just knowing being assured there's an adequate supply in the future, I think that's critical."

Chevron expects to spend over four-and-a-half billion dollars before it produces a single barrel from the field. Experts caution that it will not be enough to usher in an era of cheaper gas or energy dependance in the United States.

Pat Hernandez, KUHF-Houston Public Radio News.

Bio photo of Pat Hernandez

Pat Hernandez

Reporter

Pat Hernandez is a general assignments reporter who joined the KUHF news staff in February of 2008...