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Drill ANWR Sideways

Sneak the oil out the back door, the caribou will never know
  (+15, -5)(+15, -5)
(+15, -5)
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One of the big stupid debates in the US Congress over the last couple of months has been about whether or not to start drilling for oil in ANWR (the Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge). The Republicans, representing the oil industry, want to go in, build a bunch of oil wells, extract lots of fossil fuels, sell them, and get rich. The Democrats, representing the environmentalists, want ANWR to be left alone, so as not to disturb the wildlife there.

I propose to give both sides what they want: allow drilling in ANWR, as long as it is done entirely underground. To accomplish this, the drilling teams will start somewhere outside of ANWR by digging a tunnel down into the ground several hundred feet. From there they dig sideways into the ground underneath ANWR, until they are above the oil reserves. Once they are in the spot they want to be, the start digging the well-shaft down from their tunnel. Once they get the oil, they transport it back out via pipes in the tunnel that reach back to the entrance. In this way, they get their oil, but none of the caribou can even tell that drilling is going on.

And if that's not ambitious enough for you, the bonus option is to start digging the horizontal portion of the tunnel in, say, Chicago. Once the tunnel reaches ANWR, we'd have our new Alaskan oil pipeline, only this version would be much less vulnerable than current pipelines to weather/squirrels/ terrorists, simply because it is not visible or accessible to any surface dwellers.

Jeremi, May 02 2002


       Clever. Sly, even. Plus, huuuge contracts for construction/tunnelling industry. Croissant.
calum, May 02 2002

       An allowance for undercutting the curve of earth's surface from a remote site will save the consortium transportation distance as well as save our pristine lichen fields. Hoopee!
reensure, May 02 2002

       Almost flawless.   

       One major problem, and probably a show-stopper. I imagine the labor and materials cost would be so enormous as to shrink the profit margin down to extremely unattractive levels to any corporation. Figure out how to safely maximize the automation of this process and maybe you've got something. But croissant for the half-bakedness of it all.
globaltourniquet, May 02 2002

       does 'the Burn's slant drilling company' count as baked?   

       main reality problem is the permafrost a few feet below the surface but still a good idea
chud, May 02 2002

       Deep sea drilling is, I believe, often done "sideways"
herilane, May 02 2002

       This idea would be great -- in a movie.   

       Unfortunately, planet Earth has other ideas about how things work in the real world.   

       Have you ever BEEN to Alaska [Jeremi]?   

       Or seen what's between Chicago and Alaska? If a few thousand miles weren't enough, let's talk about the Canadian Rockies.   

       The trouble with ideas like this is that they distract people from the reality of what's going on out there. (BTW, That oil is like money in the bank, but we all want to spend it right away. After some time, when we're out, when the middle east is out, the only place left with oil (and plenty of it) will be Russia and Siberia.)   


       And just where do you propose this imaginary drilling site anyway? ANWR is big, and the reality of accomplishing what you are suggesting would clearly do much more environmental harm than just drilling in ANWR, cleaning up, and moving on.   

       //this version would be much less vulnerable than current pipelines to weather/squirrels/ terrorists, simply because it is not visible or accessible to any surface dwellers.//   

       Mechanical breakdowns and leaks are a much more real threat than any of the above.   

       [marked–for-deletion] Magic. Bad Science.
zigness, Mar 14 2004

       I don't think this should be MFD, [zigness]. The basic concept is sound if not a bit ambitious. And the notion that this idea distracts people from the truth is an absurdity.
bristolz, Jun 12 2004

       Sure, why not. If we croissanted the Kiritimaticentrifugomobile to the tune of +43, -2 (22 March 2006) why wouldn't we send a few crumbs this way.
methinksnot, Mar 22 2006

       Agree with many opponents for several reasons: 1) profit margin. drilling isn't cheap as it is, and now you want to add billions of additional dollars to the cost? it would be cheaper to just buy more oil from OPEC. 2) hazard cost. tunnels are notoriously dangerous just for being tunnels, but now you have thousands to millions of barrels of oil flowing out of a tunnel filled with lots of people deep underground. not a good idea. 3) lack of novelty. you already can curve drill holes to a certain degree, tapping into several nearby oilfields with just one rig. 4) impact. much more environmental damage is done by transporting the oil than is done by the rigs themselves. aside from the fact that you now need to dispose of millions of cubic feet of dirt and rock that you dug up, and the only place to put it is... aboveground, destroying any ecosystem you are trying to preserve.
Agamemnon, Feb 15 2007

       And first of all you need to know where exactly the oil is! You spend hugh amounts of money for one drill and then don't find any...   

       The area is hugh and success rates for even standard oil-drilling are sometimes as low as 10%.   

       Additionally you would first have to do some geophysical exploration to locate possible sub-surface structures. Best would be a 3D seismic survey, which also takes toll on the nature due to tracks for the vibro-trucks and geophone lines.   

JackHide, Mar 28 2008

       //be a 3D seismic survey, which also takes toll on the nature due to tracks for the vibro-trucks and geophone lines//
Couldn't they do this without trucks, by causing a caribou stampede?
coprocephalous, Mar 28 2008

       I drink your milkshake. I drink it up!
Noexit, Mar 28 2008

       Off Axis or Steered head drilling is very common practice in the drilling industry. It has been a long long time since it was needed to drill straight wells all over everywhere. This is a slightly different approach but really this already exists.
jhomrighaus, Mar 28 2008

       I think you'll find that the South Sandwich Islands might object to this plan.
MaxwellBuchanan, Mar 28 2008


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