Saturday, June 30, 2007

The Trans-Alaska Pipeline

After the discovery of oil in the desolate area of Prudhoe Bay, Alaska in 1968, the need for a system of transporting oil from the region became apparent. Upon considering several options, involved oil companies settled on constructing an elaborate pipeline system which would transport oil from Prudhoe Bay in the North Slope to the Port of Valdez, where it could be picked up by oil tankers for shipment to the lower 48 states. The project was to begin with the construction of a haul road to carry supplies and workers to the remote areas through which the pipeline would transport oil over miles of mountains, rivers and streams.

While the pipeline system was determined to be the most economical option that would meet the logistical needs of the oil companies, it was not met without opposition from native villagers and environmental activists. Natives filed a law suit to prevent the haul road from being built through their land, and several environmental groups filed suit based on claims that construction of the pipeline would violate the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) as well as the Mineral Leasing Act of 1920 (MLA). The project was delayed for several years due to lawsuits and red tape in obtaining federal and state right of way and all of the required permits for the project.

Having overcome years of obstacles, the companies could finally commence construction on the haul road in 1974. Dalton Highway is the present day road that evolved from the original pipeline haul road, on which construction began on April 29, 1974. After five months of construction, the haul road was completed in September, and thus construction on the Trans-Alaska Pipeline began the following March.

In depth evaluations of the environment during the planning stages led to design modifications from the originally planned underground pipeline. The threat of structural support issues in earthquake prone areas and areas with unstable permafrost led to a design with more than half of the length of the pipeline being constructed above ground. Heat from underground pipeline can thaw the permafrost, and thus underground pipeline construction is limited to areas with stable, solid rock.

In just over two years, the approximately 800 mile pipeline was completed between Alaska’s North Slope and the Port of Valdez. Juneau became the first vessel to pick up crude oil from the Port of Valdez that had made the journey from Alaska’s North Slope. Today, the Alyeska Pipeline Service Company, which is a conglomerate of several pipeline companies, operates and maintains the pipeline and offers educational tours to the public.

About the Author: Bob Jent is the CEO of Western Pipeline Corporation. Western Pipeline Corp specializes in identifying, acquiring and developing existing, producing reserves on behalf of its individual clients.

Recycling Used Motor Oil

Motor oil is essential to the proper lubrication and functioning of the engines in vehicles, as is replacing it on a regular basis. Oil, when disposed of improperly, does not readily break down and has the potential to cause harm to plants and animals of the natural environment. Even small amounts of oil can contaminate the freshwater supply on which many people, animals and plants rely to sustain life. In addition, neglecting to dispose of used motor oil properly is illegal.
On the bright side, used motor oil can be recycled into re-refined oil and used again, in turn saving energy and slowing the demand for new oil production.

If you are one of the many people who change their own oil, following the correct procedures for storage and recycling of used motor oil is extremely important. Oil must be drained into a container that does not leak and has a dependable screw-on top. Containers designed specifically for this purpose can be easily purchased at automotive specialty stores or mass retailers. Make sure that the container you use has not been previously used to store household or other chemicals. Also, use a drop cloth below your work area to avoid spills and splatters that can be difficult or impossible to clean up and can cause harm to the environment.

Use the phone book, internet or referrals to determine the most convenient way to recycle used motor oil in your area. Some communities provide the containers in which to drain your used oil as well as roadside pick up service. If you do not have this lucky option, check with oil change service stations, automotive repair shops or car dealers in your local area to determine which places recycle used oil. Also, inquire about the proper procedure for recycling the oil that has collected in your oil filter. Another option to determine oil recycling locations in your area is to use one of the web services which allow you to enter your zip code to obtain a list of nearby locations that will recycle used motor oil. Some oil collection centers will even pay you for your used oil!

Another measure you can take to protect the environment from contamination from used motor oil is to ensure that your vehicle is free of oil leaks. You may also consider using a longer life oil in your vehicle, which increases the amount of miles you can drive between oil changes and thus reduces your overall oil consumption.

About the Author: Bob Jent is the CEO of Western Pipeline Corporation. Western Pipeline Corp specializes in identifying, acquiring and developing existing, producing reserves on behalf of its individual clients.

What are Oil Seeps?

Put simply, oil seeps are naturally occurring oil and natural gas “springs” which rise from oil reservoirs within the earth and emerge at the surface. Seeps usually contain some mixture of natural gas, crude oil, water and asphaltum, which is a thick substance commonly known as tar. Similar to the manner in which freshwater springs on the earth’s surface originate from collected water underground, oil seeps originate from underground collections of oil that have accumulated within porous rock and have been contained by impermeable rock.

Oil seeps occur both on shore and under water, and provide valuable insight about the location of oil reservoirs deep within the earth. Since we have yet to develop a one hundred percent accurate way of determining the location of underground oil reservoirs, the presence of oil seeps provides valuable clues that can reduce the risk of wasted capital for oil drilling endeavors by companies such as Western Pipeline Corp. The first project believed to have been dedicated to drilling for oil, led by Edwin Drake, took place in Titusville, Pennsylvania, in an area that was chosen in part because of the known oil seeps.

Oil seeps provide a natural resource which has been used by humans for various purposes throughout history, long before the advent of commercial drilling as we know it today. Native Americans are believed to have used resources collected from oil seeps for such purposes as lantern fuel, lubricant for wagon wheels and adhesive for weapons and canoes centuries ago. Asphaltum from seeps is also believed to have been used by such civilizations as face paint and for decorative additions to bowls and jewelry.

Oil seeps on land, though they may only release small amounts of oil and be difficult to see, provide scientists with important clues about the underground environment and the potential of an oil reservoir being located beneath. Likewise, oil seeps in the ocean are evidence of possible oil reservoirs below the sea floor, which modern oil drilling technology is now capable of extracting. Oil and natural gas released through vents in the ocean floor float and collect on the surface of the water, often forming oil covered natural gas bubbles and eventually a film of oil on the surface, making them easy to locate. Over time, large amounts of oil collect on the surface that eventually become visible from satellite images. Combined with information from other technologies, satellite analysis of oil seeps can provide scientists important data about the type of oil that is present as well as the potential for successful excavation.

The presence of oil seeps leading to further exploration has resulted in the discoveries of numerous productive oil reservoirs in the past. Without the natural clues about subsurface activity provided by oil seeps, we may have never discovered oil and its many commercial uses that are so common today.

About the Author: Bob Jent is the CEO of Western Pipeline Corporation. Western Pipeline Corp specializes in identifying, acquiring and developing existing, producing reserves on behalf of its individual clients.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Why do we Need Petroleum?

While most people are aware that we use petroleum derived gasoline to fuel our vehicles, many do not understand the far reaching impact that petroleum has on our everyday lives. Petroleum is in fact an important facilitator of production and often a component of the end products that we use or encounter every day. But what is petroleum, and what makes it so necessary for our lifestyles? Here we examine some of the many ways petroleum is used for consumer products, some of which may surprise you.

The literal meaning of the term petroleum is “rock oil,” as it is simply oil that comes from rock deep within the earth. Petroleum forms when ancient organic matter slowly gets compressed at high heat levels within the earth, resulting in a carbon rich substance that becomes trapped in rocks. As this oil travels underground through the path of least resistance, it eventually collects between impermeable rocks, creating reservoirs. Such reservoirs are the target locations for drilling operations by oil companies such as Western Pipeline Corporation, which extract the oil and begin the process that will eventually lead to the production of numerous consumer products.

Besides gasoline, one of the major uses for petroleum is the manufacture of plastics for use in a plethora of applications. After oil is extracted from the earth and transported, generally by pipeline or tanker, to refineries, it is commonly converted into plastic pellets which are shipped to manufacturers for production of their final products. Plastic is everywhere, making up parts of vehicles, toys, homes, computers, product packaging and even clothing.

We mentioned that most vehicles rely on fuel from petroleum in order to operate, but transportation as we know it would not be possible without petroleum contributing in other ways as well. The asphalt that is used to construct the roads on which we drive is a petroleum product. Grease to lubricate automobiles engines is derived from petroleum, as is synthetic rubber that is used in our vehicles’ tires.

Petroleum is the basis countless consumer products that you may not even consider as being petroleum derived. Some notable products utilizing this valuable natural resource are solvents used in paints and ink, paraffin wax used in candles and candy, roofing materials, detergents, film, pesticides, the uses are seemingly endless. Additionally, the jobs of millions of people across the world are reliant on locating, producing and refining petroleum as well as manufacturing it into the countless petroleum derived products on the market today.

About the Author: Bob Jent is the CEO of Western Pipeline Corporation. Western Pipeline Corp specializes in identifying, acquiring and developing existing, producing reserves on behalf of its individual clients.

Improving Vehicle Fuel Economy

Gasoline is just one of the many petroleum products that have a major impact on the daily lives of consumers in the United States. Petroleum products are those derived from oil and natural gas that is extracted, usually through drilling, from deep within the earth. Though common products such as plastics, film, detergents, and electricity are petroleum derived products, the most significant demand for petroleum is in the form of fuel for energy in the transportation sector. With millions of fuel powered vehicles traveling the roadways as well as a high demand for air travel, gasoline and jet fuel play an important role in meeting our regular transportation and travel needs. Following are a few simple steps drivers can take to get the most out of their vehicle’s use of fuel while saving a little money in the process.

-Perform regular maintenance on your vehicle. Regular tune-ups can keep your vehicle running at the optimal level of performance and give you the benefit of better fuel economy. Problems such as an obstructed air filter, uneven wheels or bent axles can increase the energy required to power your vehicle, thus affecting its fuel usage.

-Maintain conservative driving habits. The way you drive can affect the amount of fuel that is consumed by your vehicle. Start slowly from a stop, without pressing the accelerator more than about a quarter of the way down. “Revving” the engine is another way to burn fuel needlessly, and should be avoided to achieve optimal fuel efficiency. Keeping a steady pace while driving, as opposed to accelerating and decelerating frequently, will also help maximize the gas mileage you get from your vehicle.

-Do not disregard the laws of physics. Though your engine is more than capable of providing enough power to keep your vehicle driving, your vehicle is still a large heavy object that must overcome resistance in order to move. The faster you drive, the more wind resistance your vehicle must overcome to get you where you want to go. Obeying the speed limit is a good general rule to help optimize the fuel efficiency of your vehicle, while at the same time preventing you from getting a speeding citation. The air conditioner also consumes excess fuel at low speeds, though generally speaking the air conditioner is preferred over having the windows down at high speeds because of the increased wind resistance that having windows down causes.

Performing regular maintenance on your vehicle, exercising conservative and patient driving habits and decreasing the resistance that your vehicle must overcome can help maximize your vehicle’s fuel efficiency and minimize the impact on your living expenses.

About the Author: Bob Jent is the CEO of Western Pipeline Corporation. Western Pipeline Corp specializes in identifying, acquiring and developing existing, producing reserves on behalf of its individual clients.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

OPEC Warns Against Reducing Demand for Oil

Countries across the world rely heavily on oil and its byproducts to create much of the energy that their citizens consume. The availability of gasoline to power vehicles, boats and aircraft in the United States of America is dependent largely upon oil that is imported from other nations, and particularly from members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).
OPEC, founded in 1960, is a conglomerate of major oil producing and exporting nations that are estimated to produce 40 percent of the world’s oil and to possess about two thirds of the world’s known oil reserves. OPEC monitors the worldwide oil market and establishes pricing for oil which affects people throughout the world. According to, OPEC’s mission is “to coordinate & unify the petroleum policies of Member Countries & ensure the stabilization of oil prices in order to secure an efficient, economic & regular supply of petroleum to consumers, a steady income to producers & a fair return on capital to those investing in the petroleum industry.” The organization also sets production quotas for most of its members.

The Associated Press reports that the president of OPEC, Mohamed Al Hamli, has asserted that policies aimed at reducing world dependence on oil could lead to reduced availability in the future. Such declaration is cause for concern since history and the principles of economics demonstrate that reduced supply of a high demand product leads to higher prices. Al Hamli reasoned that the exporting countries have minimal resources and that hefty investments in production when demand is uncertain would be financially wasteful.

The United States and other industrialized nations rely heavily on fossil fuels for energy to fuel vehicles, heat homes and to produce and transport a multitude of other oil dependent consumer products. Nonetheless, concerns about the limited nature of oil, unrest about the environmental impact of oil and a long held dependence on imports of foreign oil have contributed to a substantial movement to reduce dependence on oil for energy.

The emergence of alternative forms of energy, such as wind energy and bio fuel is threatening to weaken world reliance on fossil fuels for energy in the long term. However, the tremendous extent of the world’s reliance on oil and natural gas suggest that any changes impacting the demand for oil that do take place will do so gradually.

About the Author: Bob Jent is the CEO of Western Pipeline Corporation. Western Pipeline Corp specializes in identifying, acquiring and developing existing, producing reserves on behalf of its individual clients.

Causes of Oil Spills

Oil spills are hazardous to the environment and can be dangerous or deadly to affected people and animals. There are a number of factors which can lead to oil spills, and many occur during the transport of oil across waterways such as oceans.

Oil is commonly transported by barges, tankers, pipelines, and trucks, each of which has its own imperfections that can lead to an oil accident. Tankers and barges can crash or run into unexpected land that causes a crack or hole which allows oil to escape. Likewise, pipelines which transport oil underground can develop leaks or cracks that allow oil to seep into the environment. Oil shipping trucks can also instigate an oil spill in the event of an accident. Some oil can escape while it is being moved from one vessel to another, a process called lightering. Uncontrollable factors such as hurricanes and other violent weather can cause tankers or barges to wreck or can damage offshore drilling facilities, incidents that can lead to oil spills.

Oil spills can occur during other phases of production, such as when oil is being extracted from an oil well or being converted into other products at a refinery. Human mistakes as well as equipment failure are common causes of accidents in such situations. Sometimes oil is even spilled intentionally as an act of war or vandalism. Illegal dumping of oil is another deliberate act that causes harm to the environment.

Since importing and exporting oil is a major mechanism of world trade, oil spills often happen in the ocean during long international commutes. The degree of effort involved in cleaning up an oil spill depends on the quantity of oil that is spilled, the type of oil, the cooperation of the weather in clean up efforts as well as the location of the spill. Lighter oils, such as gasoline, have a tendency to evaporate into the air and are therefore generally easier to clean up. A spill in the ocean is often relatively easier to clean up than a spill in a smaller lake, though cleaning any spill is a complicated undertaking.

When oil is spilled into the ocean, the movement of the waves causes some of the oil to emulsify in the water. Some of the mixture sinks to the bottom of the ocean where it sticks to rocks and sand. Some of the spilled oil is consumed by microorganisms in the water, and some is broken down by the sun. Still, some of the spilled oil is transported by the current onto land, affecting the sand, rocks, grass and trees.

Oil spill prevention and cleanup procedures are monitored by organizations such as the Environmental Protection Agency and the United States Coast Guard. Such organizations enact policies aimed at preventing spills, training for oil clean up and making companies accountable for accidents.

About the Author: Bob Jent is the CEO of Western Pipeline Corporation. Western Pipeline Corp specializes in identifying, acquiring and developing existing, producing reserves on behalf of its individual clients.

What are Gasoline Octane Ratings

You have probably noticed that most gas stations provide the option between different “octane ratings” of gasoline for vehicles. Octane ratings are the numbers that typically correspond with the regular, mid-grade and premium nomenclature that often tend to perpetuate confusion. Contrary to these suggestive designations, a higher octane, “supreme” rating does not necessarily mean that the gasoline is simply better for your vehicle. Rather, different octane ratings are available to accommodate different vehicles with engines that require gasoline to meet certain compression requirements to function properly and avoid damage to the engine.

To understand octane ratings, first understanding the basic operation of an internal combustion engine is helpful. You have probably heard vehicles being classified as having four, six or eight cylinder engines. A cylinder is a fundamental component of an internal combustion engine, and each cylinder has a cylindrical shaped metal piston that moves within it. An intake valve opens to allow a mixture of air and gasoline into a cylinder in one stroke, which is called the intake stroke. Then, the piston moves to compress the air and gas mixture within the cylinder during what is called the compression stroke. A spark plug is designed to ignite the compressed air and gas mixture, creating an explosion. The fuel in the vehicle must be able to withstand the pressure exerted on it during the compression stroke, or else it can spontaneously ignite instead of being ignited by the spark plug as intended.

The amount of compression that fuel can withstand before it spontaneously ignites is determined by the fuel’s octane rating. Ignition should be initiated by a spark from the spark plug, as ignition from compression can cause damage to an engine. High octane gasoline can withstand high compression, while lower octane gasoline is capable of withstanding lower levels of compression without spontaneously igniting.

The type of engine in a vehicle determines the octane rating of the gasoline that the vehicle requires to obtain adequate compression. The term octane refers to eight hydrocarbons in a chain, and heptane refers to a chain of seven carbons. Gasoline that is given an eighty-seven octane rating is made up of 87 percent octane, with the remaining 13 percent comprised of heptane. Likewise, gasoline designated as 93 octane is made up of 93 percent octane, and is generally recommended for high performance vehicles. Using the octane rating designated for your vehicle is recommended to prevent engine problems. The recommended octane rating is usually specified in the vehicle owner’s manual as well as inside the fuel door of the vehicle.

About the Author: Bob Jent is the CEO of Western Pipeline Corporation. Western Pipeline Corp specializes in identifying, acquiring and developing existing, producing reserves on behalf of its individual clients.

The Beginning of the U.S. Oil Industry

The roots of the modern U.S. oil industry trace back to Titusville, Pennsylvania, a small farm town north of Pittsburgh. It was in Titusville that the first commercially intended oil drilling operation succeeded at extracting oil from within the earth. The events that followed gave way to the lucrative and widespread oil industry that the world is so reliant upon today.

The presence of oil in western Pennsylvania was not a new phenomenon. Native Americans are believed to have been using oil from seeps for medicinal purposes as early as the 1400s, and the use of oil for lamp fuel was also common far before oil was extracted from the earth through drilling. Oil had also been frequently been encountered during drilling for salt and fresh water, though at the time was seen as a nuisance rather than a commodity, and even led to abandonment of drilling operations in the location. It was not until 1859 that Drake Well, the Titusville oil well that came to be named after Edwin Drake, was drilled for the sole objective of extracting oil from underground.

A New York lawyer named George Bissell employed the help of chemist Benjamin Silliman Jr. to determine that oil could be distilled to create a quality illuminant, among other uses. Encouraged by the prospective profitability of oil, Bissell formed the Pennsylvania Rock Oil Company, a predecessor of the Seneca Oil Company, and hired Edwin Drake to inspect and report on the oil springs on their property and develop a way to produce enough oil to be profitable. After some failed attempts, Drake decided to try drilling for oil much like miners drilled for salt, and hired an experienced salt well driller named William “Uncle Billy” A. Smith to help.

The drilling project encountered many problems, and Drake soon ran out of financial backing. On August 27, 1859, Drake and Smith had drilled to a depth of 69.5 feet and retired for the night. The next morning, oil was found floating on top of the water inside the hole. Oil was successfully extracted at a time when many people, including investors, had denounced the operation as a failure.

Seemingly overnight, people quickly moved into the area to capitalize on the discovery in a boom that can be likened to the California gold rush. Oil derricks were erected close together and in mass numbers, and towns appeared throughout the formerly quiet farm community. Until the Texas oil boom in 1901, Pennsylvania produced half of the world’s oil supply. Drake Well marked a revolutionary discovery with a lasting impact on world commerce and spurred the inception of the automobile industry.

About the Author: Bob Jent is the CEO of Western Pipeline Corporation. Western Pipeline Corp specializes in identifying, acquiring and developing existing, producing reserves on behalf of its individual clients.