Saturday, March 12, 2011

Peak Oil Confronts Peak Idiocracy: What to Do?

Offshore Oil Installations
Political restrictions on international oil drilling by OPEC, Russia, and other national oil companies and dictatorships is driving international companies to drill in more extreme environments. Extreme offshore drilling is likely to increase for this reason, and because that is where most of the new giant oil fields are likely to be found. Such a movement into an extreme environment is becoming more difficult as the world confronts "peak manpower" -- which is the inevitable mirror image of "peak Idiocracy."

Due to differential birthrates and other global demographic change, the global average population IQ is dropping from near 90, ever closer to 85, then toward 80. In order to competently operate a high-tech infrastructure, a population needs to have an average IQ of 90 or above -- due to the nature of the IQ distribution, and the demands of high-tech jobs on a human brain. Energy operations -- particularly in extreme environments -- require competency and a minimal intelligence in order to avoid disaster. Many of the richest seafloor oil fields lie offshore of countries with some of the lowest average IQs, globally. Shipping in outside workers is the obvious answer, but there is a limit to the number of competent workers who are in the training pipeline, again due to global demographics (and horrendous political decisions).
Evolution of Offshore Platforms
Offshore rigs have gotten better over the years, but they still require extensive human manning and oversight. In difficult operations, disaster is only a breath of inattention away. The oil industry has therefore been developing robotic seafloor drilling equipment which can move much of the danger far away from rig workers. Such equipment can also reduce the numbers of highly trained, highly intelligent technicians to oversee operations.
Robotic Seafloor Oil Drilling Installation
New robotic rigs will be used for both exploratory and production purposes. Here is more information about an exploratory seafloor robot:
This new exploration rig is unlike any other. The design allows it to be operated on the ocean floor, uninhabited, enabling safer exploration of ultra-deep water and arctic regions that are both difficult and sometimes impossible to access with traditional rigs.

Seabed Rig AS has designed intelligent robots, controlled using software provided by Cambridge, Massachusetts firm Energid Technologies Corporation.

"The software was originally developed for NASA and the National Science Foundation for controlling complex robotic systems," says Neil Tardella, COO of Energid. "We are leveraging this software to build the most intelligent rig of its kind."

With an automated rig, workers are kept from immediate harm, and human error place a much less critical role in its operation -- the source of several major incidents in the past. "Robots do not get tired and make mistakes," says Roald Valen, Robotics and Control System Manager at Seabed Rig. "They do not get hurt."

For safety, the Seabed rig employs a patented encapsulated and pressure compensated design, giving an environmentally friendly solution with zero discharge to the sea. "Our aim is to make the rig both safer and more effective than any exploration rig currently in use," says Kenneth Mikalsen, CTO of Seabed Rig. _GreyGoose
Similar rigs will be used for mining of minerals and mining of oil&gas. The aim is to move the danger away from workers, while at the same time eventually reducing the necessary numbers of top level technicians -- using increasingly autonomous robots supervised by increasingly centralised and multi-tasking remote technical overseers.

It is imperative to remove oil operations far away from African populations -- where insurgencies, corruption, and dangerous petty thievery associated with pipelines and wells can leave tens of thousands of people dead every year, costing tens or hundreds of millions of dollars to oil company operations.

Placing operations thousands of metres under the sea -- with supervisory facilities away from insurgencies and corrupt officials -- can save lives and money. Finding better ways to route pipelines away from populated areas -- and other areas accessible to local populations -- will require careful planning and design.

French oil giant Total has already three subsea gas/liquid separation units off the coast of Angola under 800 metres of water.
The subsea production system for Pazflor’s three Miocene reservoirs includes three subsea separation units. Each one consists of four retrievable packages: a gas-liquid separator; two hybrid pumps to boost the liquids; and a manifold to distribute the effluents to the separator and pumps. Purpose-designed for Pazflor, the hybrid pumps are another first. They combine multiphase stages, compatible with the presence of gas in the liquid, and a centrifugal stage, to improve efficiency.

Fabrication of the SSUs, completed in 2010, entailed nearly 350,000 man-hours of work.

Both systems—the standard production loop for light oil and the new subsea separation technology—will be connected to a single Floating Production, Storage and Offloading (FPSO) vessel. _GCC
The Idiocracy is coming, but the global demand for energy will continue to be high as long as high tech infrastructure in global cities and industrial nations can be maintained. This places world energy companies in a squeeze, of sorts, as qualified workers become scarce at a faster rate than demand for product falls off.

Corrupt national governments will continue to institute restrictive taxes, regulations, and ultimately nationalisation -- as the situation on the streets becomes worse.

This is not peak oil, as conventionally understood. The reserves are still there, but the competent manpower required to access the reserves is shrinking away for political and demographic reasons. There will concomitantly be a shortage of advanced materials required to access extreme resources, likewise due to peak manpower and poor national planning. Political peak oil.

It is never too early to plan for dealing with the fallout from bad government and a slipshod sociological transition. Never underestimate the stupidity of your leadership. You are responsible for yourself and your family, no matter what they tell you.

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