Oil Dreams

October 14, 2014

OIL PUMPRain this afternoon finally, and apparently here on California’s north coast we’re expecting maybe a coming week’s worth of soaking.

And beyond the beach, oil is making headlines, again — this time for a hefty, jig-saw price dump today: The heavily traded Brent/WTI spread was volatile over the day, first narrowing to under $2 a barrel, near its lowest in over a year, before widening back out to $3.30 later in the day as U.S. oil futures deepened losses.
Down more than 20 percent since June.

(Illustration: An oil pump, ‘horse head,’ found here).

Near-about oil gluttony out there — beyond lower gas pump prices — and acting peculiar, US oil companies drilling out their ass (via Bloomberg):

In a way, oil companies in the U.S. are perpetuating the crash by continuing to drill and push up U.S. oil production to its fastest pace ever.
Rather than pulling back in hopes of slowing the amount of supply on the market to try and boost prices, drillers are instead operating at full tilt and pumping oil as fast as they can…
Over the past five years, the amount of horizontal rigs deployed in the U.S. has almost quadrupled, from 379 in early 2009 to more than 1,300 today.
This is of course purely a fracking story.
Almost all the recent gains in U.S. oil production are the result of horizontal drilling techniques being used across much of the Midwest, from Texas to North Dakota.
Unlike conventional vertical wells, where more wells do not always equal more oil, the strategy in a shale field appears to be to drill as many as possible to unlock oil trapped in rock formations.
As the number of horizontal drill rigs has exploded, the number of vertical rigs in the U.S. has gone in the opposite direction, falling almost 70 percent over the past seven years.

And the Saudis and other OPEC guys aren’t slashing production, either. Supposedly, a lot of these companies have a break-even bar at $80 a barrel, so we’re already way close, forcing up another precarious bit of bullshit for the economy — and what fracking does to the environment on so many different, toxic levels, is a way-another story.

On an oil-boom note, a really good feature story by freelance writer Laura Gottesdiener on life inside “Boomtown USA” can be found at TomDispatch from this past weekend — a narrative of life so shitty it sucks.
Some highlights:

This spring, production in North Dakota surged past one million barrels of oil a day.
The source of this liquid gold, as it is locally known, is the Bakken Shale: a layered, energy-rich rock formation that stretches across western North Dakota, the corner of Montana, and into Canada.

Now, six years later, the region displays all the classic contemporary markers of hell: toxic flames that burn around the clock; ink-black smoke billowing from 18-wheelers; intermittent explosions caused by lightning striking the super-conductive wastewater tanks that hydraulic fracturing makes a necessity; a massive Walmart; an abundance of meth, crack, and liquor; freezing winters; rents higher than Manhattan; and far, far too many men.
To oil companies, however, the field is hallowed ground, one of the few in history to break the million-barrel-a-day benchmark, earning it “a place in the small pantheon of truly elite oil fields,” as one Reuters market analyst wrote.

Just beneath the sense of giddiness and possibility in this frontier outpost of America’s new energy empire lurks loneliness of an almost indescribable sort.
Since the boom began, at least 15,000 workers — mostly men — have descended on Williston alone.
When you meet them, it’s clear that most carry the residue of half-lives from someplace else: photographs of their children, memories of ex-wives, accents bred in Minnesota or Liberia.
“You can almost see the lost-ness, the desperation in their faces,” Marc Laurent told me. He’s the manager of the Aspen Lodge & Suites where I first stayed, before the cost of housing got the best of me and, like almost all newcomers to Williston at one point or another, I resigned myself to living in my car.

Read the whole piece, it’s really good, but sad, depressing and ‘Blade Runner‘ futuristic.
Boomtown‘ North Dakota seen at night from space can be found here — the fracking fields burning off  “..enough gas to heat half a million homes.”

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