Intel's Ronler Acres Plant


Silicon Forest

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Kazakhstan's Kashagan Oil Field

When I first saw this, I wasn't sure what I was looking at. It's in Kazakhstan, which is over there on the other side of world along with Afghanistan and Pakistan and all the other 'stans. I mean it kind of looks like a desert, which wouldn't be out of place in that neighborhood.

Then I saw this picture and I realized that what I thought was desert sand in the first picture is actually ice. The first picture was taken in the winter and this one was taken in the summer.

This is an artificial island constructed in the Caspian sea as part of a project to exploit the Kashagan oil field that lies there. Posthip Scott send me a link to good, concise video (that is not embeddable) that gives an good overview of this project, along with a link to a well written story about this project. The Wall Street Journal also has a short video about the problems this project is having.

Seems a consortium of oil companies has sunk $50 Billion into this project over the last 20 years. It is a challenging project even by oil company standards. I mean they are regularly drilling for oil in water that is a mile deep. A comment in one of videos mentions that the $50 billion that has been spent would be more than enough to send a man to the moon. It's also about half what the USA spends every year on our "war" in Afghanistan.

The world runs on oil, so I can understand why these guys would be willing to sink that much money into this project. After all, this is the biggest find since Prudhoe Bay in Alaska was discovered 40 years ago. The part that gets me is that all the oil they expect to reclaim from this field will only satisfy our civilization's thirst for oil for one steenking year. Oh, it will take much longer than that is suck it dry, but if you add it all up, it is just a drop in the metaphorical bucket. We need a new oil field discovery comparable to this one every year. We don't get them, of course, so we have guys scouring the world for whatever they can find. Makes me wonder why everyone doesn't have a job prospecting for oil, but let's try and stay on topic, shall we?

One of the biggest problems with the Kasagan (cash again) oil field is the presence of hydrogen sulfide gas, and it's not here in just the trace quantities that are enough to produce that familiar "rotten eggs smell" that comes with many oil wells. Here it is a sizeable fraction of what comes out of the well, and it's under high pressure: 12,000 PSI (pounds per square inch). That's a bunch. There are plenty of everyday industrial techniques that deal with high pressures, like Natural Gas pipelines, Oxy-Aceteline gas welding tanks, and the hydraulic systems you find on everything from garbage trucks to the power steering on your car. But all those everyday systems only operate on two or three thousand PSI, not twelve freaking thousand. I am not sure anyone even makes any kind of hose that will handle that pressure, which means that all the plumbing has to be done with pipe, and not just ordinary, extra-strength, high pressure, steel pipe. Oh, no, that would be too easy. Seems hydrogen sulfide gas is not just poisonous, but it is also corrosive, and at high pressures it is extremely corrosive. So you need special non-corrosive lining in your high-strength, extra high pressure capacity pipe.
     So they have spent all this money, built all this drilling and processing equipment, hauled it to the far side of world through the Don-Volga Canal, drilled the wells and laid the pipelines. But now we have another problem. I expect this is just the zillionth one this project has run into, but it's something that even non-engineers can understand, so let's make the most of it.
    The pipeline started leaking. It's bad enough that it's full of oil and it runs through an environmentally sensitive area (has anyone ever run a pipeline through an area that isn't "environmentally sensitive"?), but it's also full of this deadly poisonous, nasty, corrosive hydrogen sulfide gas. Surprisingly, they shut it down. From the way the oil industry is portrayed in the press, I would have expected them to charge on full steam ahead until the piles of dead Kazakhstani's were visible on Google Earth. But they didn't.
    One guy mentions the pipes were fine when they were delivered, but then they sat out in the desert for several years, unprotected, before they were finally connected up into the pipeline. Hard to imagine that a little ordinary weather could affect an anti-corrosion coating that is supposed to resist the devil incarnate (hydrogen sulfide), but maybe it's a matter of chemistry.
   Anyway, I'm kind of wondering how they protected the joints between two sections of pipe. Pipelines are normally welded, and the heat from welding is going to destroy any kind of coating on the inside of the pipe, so how are you going to reapply the protection to the inside of the joint after you are done welding? I suppose you could use something like a paintbrush on a 40 foot pole, and a video camera to check your work, but boy, would that be tedious. I can see how somebody might slip up occasionally, and that's all it would take.
    It looks like it will probably be cheaper to build a new pipeline than to try and reclaim the old one. Whoops, there goes another billion dollars.

Friday, April 18, 2014

VTOL Truck

Advanced Tactics AT Transformer

    Once upon a time I wanted to build a flying car. My idea was to mount propellers on a dozen or so lawn mower engines and arrange them in a ring around a central control / passenger pod. I liked the concept for two reasons. One: lawn mower engines are cheap, and two: if you have a dozen of them and some of them fail, the rest should keep you aloft, or at least keep you from plummeting like a stone.
    Also got the idea from an office building I worked at in Austin. Most office buildings have some kind of heating and air conditioning plant, a dedicated space full of boilers and pipes and an old, fat guy in greasy coveralls, sitting around, drinking coffee and reading the sports page. This place didn't. Instead they had a bank of like a dozen household type central air conditioning units, all lined up in a row. I'm sure I have run into numerous other instances of where several copies of a smaller mass-produced machine have taken the place of one giant, custom machine, but this is the one I remember.
    I never did anything about building a flying car because it would have required spending money Even lawn mower engines cost more than a dollar and half, and I figured that even if it worked (of course it would have worked. Getting it off the ground would just be a matter of a couple of minor implementation details.), the Feds would frown on my taking off from my driveway, and if you can't fly directly from your house, well, why bother?
    Anyway, it looks like somebody stole my idea and then dared to actually build one. It only has eight engines, not 12, and while they might be lawn mower engines, they are from some big, stinking, lawn mowers. I'm guessing they are probably close to 200 horsepower each, which means your fuel bill is going to be in the dollars-per-minute range. But hey, it's the military, big fuel bills are kind of a given.
    There is a video of a model of this machine flying, but no video of this one getting off the ground. There is a still photo of a four engine prototype, so I'm gonna give them the benefit of the doubt for the time being. It will be interesting to see if they manage to compete with regular helicopters, the ones that cost zillions of dollars.

Honest Answer

Prussian King Frederick II, Frederick the Great, nicknamed Old Fritz, was known not only as a philosopher-king, a musician and a polyglot, but also as a truly historical figure of the XVIII century. After coming to power, first thing Friedrich cancels torture and periodically thereafter personally inspects the prisons. On one of these inspections of the city jail in Berlin, he was interested in, as usual, hearing from the prisoners. Prisoners take this opportunity to cling to the royal feet, cursing their evil fate, protesting their innocence and how it was an accidental misunderstanding that landed them here in the first place. One prisoner,  modestly and quietly stood aside, without asking for clemency or even coming close to Frederick. King showed him a gesture to come: - Well, you - the king said to him, - also came here by mistake? - No, Your Majesty, - said the prisoner - I am punished. I am convicted of theft. Monarch turned to the jailer and said quietly: - Kick this thug out of jail, so it will not spoil your present society of honest people.

Stolen from Татьяна Варуха. Авторский блог Слово миру , translated by Google and beaten into submission by me. I was going to say "polished", but that would be putting a "shine" on my work, and I'm not sure that it qualifies.

Everybody Knows

The US is an oligarchy, study concludes

reports The Telegraph 

 This is news? Well, I guess, in that this study makes it semi-official. I published the results of my study a couple of months ago. Southern Italy has known this since, well, forever.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Still Looking for that Missing Airliner

INDIAN OCEAN (April 14, 2014) Operators aboard the Australian navy vessel ADF Ocean Shield move U.S. Navy's Bluefin-21 into position for deployment. Using side scan sonar, Bluefin will descend to a depth of between 4,000 and 4,500 meters, approximately 35 meters above the ocean floor to spend up to 16 hours at this depth collecting data. Joint Task Force 658 is supporting Operation Southern Indian Ocean, searching for the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Peter D. Blair/Released)

4,500 meters is almost 3 miles deep. That won't get you to the very deepest part of the ocean, which is more like 7 miles, but it's pretty darn deep, and still deeper than most conventional submarines.

Bluefin is now owned by Batelle, a not-for-profit research outfit headquartered in Columbus, Ohio, where I lived when I was in Junior High School. There is a similar outfit in San Antonio, Texas, which is just down the road from Austin, called the Southwest Research Institute. They are called non-profits now, but when I first ran into them they were called not-for-profit. I took this to mean that they could make money from what they were doing, but it was all plowed back into their organization or research, not distributed to stock holders, because there aren't any stock holders.

Quote of the Day

The crux of the biscuit is the apostrophe. -
Seb also wrote a short article titled On the New Age Bullshit Generator and parodying woo that is well worth reading. Via Comrade Misfit.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Pic of the Day

Russian submarine presumably in the Arctic Ocean, North of Siberia.

The Google translation of the page I found this on mentions a submarine named Losharik. I'm pretty sure this isn't it. Wikipedia has this to say about Losharik:
Losharik (Russian: Лошарик) is the nickname of a Russian submarine. The official name for this submarine type is "Project 210". It is powered by a nuclear reactor and is believed to be able to operate at a depth of 1000 m due to the unique spherical construction elements.
1000 meters (3300 feet) is pretty durn deep for a big sub.