As you ponder the case for drilling for oil off our East Coast, consider this painfully humorous exchange …

Lots of questions to answer first!

Tom Belford

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  1. A NZ treasure who with Billy T James were years before their time and taught Kiwi's to laugh at themselves.

    Who can forget the gems of Fred Dagg and his army of Bruces in gumboots black shorts and singlets and the Billy T James show classics.

  2. Bay Buzz often promotes informed responses to current HB issues like never before. Ben Keet has provided another illumination

    We have family who worked on production and drilling rigs off Taranaki and the North Sea but I learnt more from Bens posting. Thanks.

  3. Hi Tom,

    The protest on the Petrobras deal appears to be quite uninformed. The 5 year contract to ‘explore’ the 12.000 odd square kilometre area doesn’t automatically mean Petrobras will be drilling wells like crazy. I believe I heard on the Radio Petrobras was investing 15 million into this.

    Firstly, even if this is 15 million every year it will not get them even 1 exploration well drilled. Exploration wells are very expensive and off-shore; 100 million US is quickly spend.

    So much more likely is the money will go towards in-fill seismic (3D) surveys, re-interpretation of existing data, structural geology analysis etc. Except in the Middle East, oil field are generally areas where many but quite small reservoirs are found. In a 12.000 square kilometre area you can spend an awful lot of money drilling ‘dry wells’ (no oil), if you haven’t done your homework.

    Secondly the water depth along the East Cape is up to about 400 m, not counting diving off the continental shelf where the crust is mainly basaltic and devoid of oil. Drilling techniques in 400 m are very well established – most North Sea platforms are in that water depth. The last major incident was the Ninian platform blowing up in the 80-ies. There are thousands of oil wells world-wide at this water depth. The Gulf of Mexico water depth is stated as 1.5 mile – 2000 m. Quite a different ball game.

    People don’t realise the risk to the future fuel security of New Zealand. We have only 8 – 12 days strategic oil supply in stock. Over 50% of diesel is imported – not produced by Marsden Point Refinery. A 2 week storm in the Tasman will deplete our strategic reserves to the point diesel will be rationed to military bases and emergency services. This means no food supply to supermarkets. 3 days later no food in supermarkets, a week later ‘anarchy’ – food only for those with guns.

    To secure our future fuel we have 2 options:

    – develop our own oil fields – 20 year lead time if all goes well and assuming there is oil

    – develop a bio-fuel industry – if we work on it fast and decisively lead time will be 10 years (algae ponds on dairy farms using the Fonterra model as example for localized production). The current B10 – B20 legislation is counter productive. B100 should get same status / subsidy.

    The alternative is horse and cart.

  4. Ben Keet's comment above is interesting and informative but he disregards the fact that the Hikurangi Trench runs southwards off the east coast of NZ, with the Pacific Tectonic Plate diving under the Australasian Plate which the North Island is situated upon. We live in one of the World's most hazard prone areas, for eqarthquakes and possible tsunami, and in that respect, we differ markedly from most offshore oil drilling zones, particularly the North Sea.

    Certainly, the world is fuel oil dependent but the sooner we break the dependency the better for continuation becomes less sustainable as each year rolls by.

    We lived with horses and carts not so long back and we could do so again if given no option; doing so would be better than killing one another and horse meat is not unpalatable, having eaten it, arguably better than whale meat which I have also eaten.


  5. A furthere consideration of Ben Keet's thoughtful text centres with his focus upon New Zealand's oil fuel dependency which, in the event of serious disruption could, he considers, possibly result in anarchy.

    It is an observable fact that societies have become increasingly dependent upon nation-wide and multinational organisations, all utilizing communications and transport infrastructure webs that can fail at any time and failures seem to be becoming larger and more frequent: international economy; mobile phone networks; ability of airlines to serve customers; energy supply continuity…the list and its underlying causes are too expansive to discuss here but anyone wishing for in-depth information would probably do well to read Prof. Juliet Schor's recently released book "Plenitude, the new economics of true wealth" which points to a path for ecologically and socially sustainable lifestyle.

    Rather than "drill, baby, drill," it is perhaps high time that we all closely examined "small is beautiful," not only beautiful but plain common sense in terms of social cohesiveness and future sustainability.

    David Appleton

  6. Ben Keets comment the alternative is the horse and cart

    Old countries in Europe owe their tourist Market towns to the distance a horse and cart could travel too and back and spend the greater part of the day selling land produce.

    It you open a compass at 30 miles and place its point in the centre of a historic market town in say England it will be found on the outer circle will be other old market towns.

    That is a maximum 15 mile trip to market.

    Almost all were stage coach line horse team change stop overs and passenger and freight transfer locations befor rail arrived. Same here. Nothing wrong with horse transport days.

    For the same reason as market towns it is why bricks used for old houses tend to change colour across the country being made from clay seams one horse and cart delivery day appart.

    People still lived into their 80's and 90's if they dodged contageous diseases that still kill millions annually and make millions sick.

    Has the world made progress, remained static or gone backwards since horse and cart times?

    In terms of death from diet change, booze, drugs, smoking, stress, polluted water and air and poverty disease due to poor governance

    the answer is backwards.

  7. David,

    Upon your first response: The east coast is indeed a subduction zone and therefore seismic active. If we wouldn't have hit peak oil in 2009 no company would consider drilling there. It is unlikely to have massive reserves (or Maui 1 would be set up there instead of on the West coast, as all of NZ off shore area was surveyed seismically in the 50-ies) and if there is oil it will indeed need sound engineering to ensure it can be taken out safely. Undersea manifold systems as I used in the North Sea in the 80-ies seem the most logical way to avoid problems with earthquackes and tsunami's.

    Second response: NZ used 2.8 billion liters of diesel in 2007. This takes 900.000 ha of algae ponds or about 3.800.000 ha of rapeseed to produce. Clearly rapeseed is not going to make it. However given 8.100.000 ha of pastural use most pastural farms just have to convert back to 'about' 10% of their acearage for fuel crops (this was 15% oats in 1900 for horses) to supply ALL of NZ with bio-diesel.

    Again I state the model will be the Fonterra model of Milk factories – the dairy shed waste etc will feed the algae ponds and the algae sludge will be transported like the milk to the local 'dairy' – fuel manufacturing facility.

    Problem at present is that this de-centralised fuel production model is in sharp contrast with the fossil fuel giants model of a centralised model. This model makes taxing easy so central government buys into this model.

    Trouble is looming as the oil-guys are bugging out of NZ. Shell is sold to the super fund – leading to the first fuel outages in their first week (a death sin in the oil industry).

    Mobil is for sale for over a decade; no maintenance has been done – same for Caltex – they are leaving by the back door – look on Trade Me how many service stations are for sale.

    Really the only option for NZ is to embrace bio-fuels. Not next year but NOW. The ETS even will favour this, so what are we waiting for?? It will be a farmer-led initiative. However bio-fuels are not easy to make and are emission unfriendly (higher NOx). Solution is to emulsify the biofuel which reduces NOx by 30% and reduces the reliance on fuel quality as emulsifying allows a wider range of feedstock spec's.

    Drs Ben Keet FRSC

    Man Dir of Veranis Corp

    Working on emulsified fuel solutions for public transport use on road, rail and sea.

  8. Hello Ben,

    Thanks for the expansive comment regarding my first contribution and one would have to agree, that if the NZ public demand the retention of our current social and transportation system, then bio-fuel production-development has to be accelerated and probably, initially, heavily subsidised. One benefit of doing that could certainly be, as you suggest, the utilization of what at present is dairy farming waste with its present, resulting chronic pollution.

    Focusing upon the future fuel oil production and supplysituation and its social ramifications, any solution through social change could probably only come about through sheer necessity, the public having no alternative but to accept change, as no government is likely to attempt enforcing totally unpalatable policies, seeing their introduction as a sure path to their political death.

    The future of NZ energy supply and use is certainly most interesting.

    David Appleton

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