Harpooning the Earth--Drilling with Charlie

Thursday, August 28, 2008

From an article by Randy Udall on the Web site of the Association for the Study of Peak Oil - USA:
Drilling holes into the earth is an audacious act with an ancient history. Many centuries ago the Chinese were drilling wells 1,000 feet-deep. In the 1860s, as marine mammals grew scarce, American whalers came ashore and began harpooning the planet, hoping to strike "rock oil."

Earth may resemble a big rock, but it's not stone-dead. Miles down, in what geologists call the petroleum kitchen, powerful forces are imprisoned. The copper plumbing in your house is designed to handle 100 pounds-per-square inch. Rig hands like my friend Charlie routinely deal with 4,000 psi, scalding temperatures, poisonous gases, bottled mayhem.

Charlie is a talented vagabond who peddles his specialized services from New Mexico to Montana. He emails me occasionally and when he comes through here I buy him a cheeseburger at Denny's. To see him sitting there, you might mistake Charlie for a plumber. But the work he does is more delicate than heart surgery. If your house was buried 8,000 feet underground, Charlie could guide a drilling bit through your patio door, down the hallway and out the bathroom window. Then he could go on down the street to the neighbor's and do it again.