Sailboats and Drilling Rigs
- C.A. Hutchinson Jr. (Atlantic Richfield Co.) | L.K. Williams (Atlantic Richfield Co.)
- Document ID
- Society of Petroleum Engineers
- Journal of Petroleum Technology
- Publication Date
- May 1968
- Document Type
- Journal Paper
- 451 - 455
- 1968. Society of Petroleum Engineers
- 4.5 Offshore Facilities and Subsea Systems, 1.10 Drilling Equipment, 6.1.5 Human Resources, Competence and Training, 1.6 Drilling Operations
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For many years environment has played an important if not a paramount part in many of the engineering disciplines. Petroleum engineers largely have been immune to social (aesthetic, recreational, etc.) environment considerations until recently. Within the past few years these special environmental aspects have influenced our decisions to a larger degree, and we can only project further increases in this trend.
Our society continues to become more complicated and is showing a greater regard than ever before for aesthetic and recreational values. This in turn is leading to regulation in new areas, as in the case presented here about Corpus Christi Bay. In a like manner, the petroleum engineering profession historically has become more complicated. We have had to become more socially conscious and somewhat cosmopolitan to perform effectively. In this broadening of engineering investigation, we are facing opportunities largely overlooked before by the petroleum engineer. Any realistic appraisal of the future argues for us to respond to the social environment as it affects our programs.
In recent years an increasing number of articles have been written concerning problems arising between the oil industry and various communities or regulatory agencies. Most of us probably have read these articles with interest but dismissed further consideration since retention of the information would not help us. Almost assuredly this attitude is a luxury of the past.
Corpus Christi is involved in such a situation. This paper gives an example of a recent occurrence and suggests a new facet to the petroleum engineer's future opportunity.
The downtown part of Corpus Christi is at the western end of Corpus Christi Bay (Fig. 1 ). The bay has a surface area of about 200 sq miles and has an average water depth of about 10 ft. Corpus Christi's history was relatively undistinguished until the late 1920's when two major growth influences appeared: a deep water port was opened in 1926, and oil was discovered in the area a short time later.
Corpus Christi Bay, bordered by many fine residential areas, is used for recreational purposes as well as commercial fishing. It also is a thin veneer covering an accumulation of substantial hydrocarbon reserves. The many divergent interests in Corpus Christi Bay have as many different motivations and desires, and are subject to different controls by numerous regulatory bodies. When positive actions by the frequently divergent interests start converging, there must be either chaos or treaty.
In the late 1940's the city became concerned about possible encroachment of the Saxet field, and in mid-1950 enacted a very restrictive oil and gas ordinance that made oil and gas operations within the city limits almost impossible. Its purpose was simple-to keep oil operations outside the city limits. There was no real concern among the oil fraternity with this ordinance; which for clarity will be termed the "land ordinance". The oil industry can be taken to task here for, as so often happens, we do not become concerned or involved with a problem until it faces us in a blind alley.
In 1950 the city limits extended only 6,500 ft from the shoreline into Corpus Christi Bay and no thought was given to this portion of the bay by the oil industry. This is not surprising. Even though the General Land Office of the State of Texas had started leasing tracts in Corpus Christi Bay in 1940, the major activity was some 10 miles cast of the city's downtown shoreline in the Mustang Island area. Also, the Corpus Christi Naval Air Station had restricted a large part of the bay for its sea plane training program and this restriction was still in effect. The restriction came about in the early 1940's, and any leases acquired prior to the restriction were placed in moratorium by the General Land Office. The primary term of many leases fell under this permissive delay.
In Oct., 1950, the city annexed 83 sq miles of Corpus Christi Bay. This put the city limit line about half-way across the bay. The industry still did not get excited since the major activity was a few miles east of the new city limit. In Dec., 1950, a "bay ordinance" was passed, but surprisingly it had few restrictions. Probably the city council believed that few restrictions were needed for there were many other agencies regulating bay operations. In addition to the Railroad Commission, operators had to answer to the Texas General Land Office, the Corps of Engineers, the Coast Guard, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and the Nueces County Navigation District. Also, at that time the city had not started emphasizing tourism.
Peace prevailed during the 1950's although there was minor drilling activity in the bay where there were no Navy restrictions. In the early 1960's, the inevitable occurred when the growing city and continued exploration by the oil industry clashed.
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