ENV 712A: Hydrocarbons: Production to Policy

Tour of Ocean Star Drilling Museum, Galveston, TX
by -- October 13th, 2013


  • Unconventional Oil: John Karanikas, Royal Dutch Shell

Touring the Ocean Star Drilling Museum in Galveston, was another great opportunity to better understand not only the technical aspects of the industry, but there sheer size of the industry’s infrastructure. (Deepwater, offshore rigs are over three times the size of the Coliseum in Rome!)

My chuckle for the day came during the museum’s video on the offshore drilling industry. It opened with an explanation of what are hydrocarbons and how they are extracted. The narrator of the film nonchalantly said: “The creation of hydrocarbons is why you sometimes find tar on your bathing suit.” The end. Next section of the movie.

As a native of Washington State, it is unfathomable to think of lumps of tar in the ocean waves as normal. Yet, Galveston is the epicenter for shallow and offshore drilling. Lumps of tar and polluted water seem to be an unavoidable by-product of the industry. The degradation of the environment is a contentious subject; however, there is a valuable trade-off from which the city of Houston and its surrounding area has benefited. The economic impact of the oil & gas industry has helped establish and diversify Houston into the metropolis that it has become today. Thousands of people enjoy a comfortable standard of living due to the job growth and security within the industry. And although, the industry is not resilient to global economic turmoil, Houston and the state of Texas have weathered the latest economic downturn. As my family in Houston tells me, “People have jobs here. It makes everyone a lot more cheerful.”

My internal thoughts on environmental preservation versus feasible economic growth are part of a larger conversation that is taking place globally about where to turn for our future energy needs. As I looked at Galveston, a beach-town that has prioritized industrialism over tourism, I was reminded that this was a choice. And many other cities, states, and nations face this very difficult choice today.

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