May 2023
Columns

What's new in exploration

Fork in the road
William (Bill) Head / Contributing Editor

Opinion: Oilco sees a fork in the road of fossil energy development, where two competing interests are “advocating” at the fork for Oilco to take one of the roads into the future. The guy on the left has compelling arguments that he is for energy sustainability, yet he implements conflicting proclamations. He loudly suggests energy is available while he quietly stops access to fossil resources. The guy on the right is a poster-styled senior, pointing at you, sitting on his gas-auto and holding a sign that says, “I want your energy.” 

Oilco asks the guy on the left, Joe, what the guy on the right would say. Oilco should go opposite to whatever Joe says is the wrong way. Why? Ask Joe what Sam would say.  

There are two possibilities: Joe is lying—Sam would have told you the truth. Joe, knowing this, lies about it and tells you the wrong way. OR Sam is the liar—Sam would have lied to you. Joe, knowing this, points and tells you honestly that’s the wrong way.  

So, here is Joe’s narrative: the law is on my side, I “would strengthen American energy security.” https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/statements-releases/2023/04/12/fact-sheet-biden 

Thus, deciding which fork in the road to take can be a frustrating exercise, Fig. 1. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Victor_Vasnetsov_-_Knight_at_the_Crossroads_-_Google_Art_Project.jpg 

Fig. 1. Figuratively speaking, which fork in the road to take at the crossroads can be a frustrating exercise. Image: Public domain.
Fig. 1. Figuratively speaking, which fork in the road to take at the crossroads can be a frustrating exercise. Image: Public domain.

Reality 1: Competition for Offshore Exploration is under attack. In 2020, Earthjustice filed a lawsuit in a Maryland [not Louisiana] federal court—known as THE enviro-friendly venue—on behalf of Sierra Club, the Center for Biological Diversity, Friends of the Earth and the Turtle Island Restoration Network, arguing that oil companies today negatively impact endangered species in the Gulf of Mexico. The lawsuit further alleged that federal regulatory agencies (National Marine Fisheries Service, or NMFS, and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA) are not doing enough to prevent that. (https://earthjustice.org/wp-content/uploads/1_complaint_for_declaratory_and_injunctive_relief_10.21.20.pdf) 

The environmental groups claim that a 700-page analysis released in 2020 by NOAA and NMFS underestimates the degree to which oil and gas development is going to hurt or harm marine species. This is a common plea—expensive, often justifying forced delays, and like this one, going nowhere, slowly. 

New discoveries offshore southern Africa, in addition to Exxon’s, Total’s and Chevron’s shows, promise that there are significant reserves to be found. About 7,500 years ago, North Africa dominated the south economically and politically. About 670 years ago, cultures from Europe began “organizational” changes. Now, Africa is undergoing organization by China. Thousands of Chinese citizens in Africa are acquiring minerals and oil to be sent to C.C.P. companies.  

Not to be discouraged in keeping Africa in overt poverty, and ignoring Chinese influence, American and Euro suits, traveling in private jets, are in African courts to stop offshore oil exploration, using the guise of protecting marine mammals. Name the CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) noncompliance party that will explore? Anyone being paid to abandon oil for insufficient solar or wind? Note an African view: https://qz.com/why-jill-biden-is-visiting-namibia-and-kenya-1850148918 

Reality 2: Exploration factors—Earth’s core, paleo to modern climate, plate tectonics affect source, seal and trap. Multidecadal variation of the Earth’s inner-core rotation. Differential rotation of Earth’s inner core, relative to the mantle, is thought to occur under the effects of the geodynamo on core dynamics and gravitational core–mantle coupling. This rotation has been inferred from temporal changes between repeated seismic waves that should traverse the same path through the inner core. 

Here, we analyze repeated seismic waves from the early 1990s and show that all the paths that previously showed significant temporal changes have exhibited little change over the past decade. This globally consistent pattern suggests that differential inner-core rotation has recently paused. We compared this recent pattern to the Alaskan seismic records of South Sandwich Islands doublets going back to 1964, and it seems to be associated with a gradual turning-back of the inner core, relative to the mantle as a part of an approximately seven-decade oscillation, with another turning point in the early 1970s.  

This multi-decadal periodicity coincides with changes in several other geophysical observations, especially the length of day and magnetic field. These observations provide evidence for dynamic interactions between the Earth’s layers, from the deepest interior to the surface, potentially due to gravitational coupling and the exchange of angular momentum from the core and mantle to the surface.  Re: Yi Yang & Xiaodong Song, Nature Geoscience, “Multi-decadal variation of the Earth’s inner-core rotation.”   https://doi.org/10.1038/s41561-022-01112-z 

Reality 3: A fundamental issue for exploration ~ sequestration ~ EOR. The kinetic diameter of CO2 is 0.33 nm, compared to CH4 at 0.38 nm. CO2 can enter through the pore mouth of any reservoir that traps natural gas but may keep moving. Bad for sequestration, good for EOR. CO2 recapture scenarios in brownfield EOR continue to make sense. CO2 for first-effort greenfield in tight rock might safely commercialize hundreds of overlooked prospects! Reducing fracing?   

"When you come to a fork in the road, take it,” Hall of Fame baseball player and manager Yogi Berra (1998). 

About the Authors
William (Bill) Head
Contributing Editor
William (Bill) Head is a technologist with over 40 years of experience in U.S. and international exploration.
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