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Science

Drilling Under the Sea 174

Posted by michael
from the down-here-all-the-fish-is-happy dept.
prof_peabody writes "The IODP (Intergrated Ocean Drilling Program) is about to get rolling in a couple of days. If you live in one of these countries then your tax dollars have contributed to the construction of the giant drillship Chikyu, which was launched a little while back (project timeline). The American contigent website is loaded with info and obligatory acronyms. The first leg of the IODP will investigate how water flows through rock formations beneath the seafloor during an eight-week expedition this summer to the eastern flank of the Juan de Fuca Ridge off the coast of British Columbia. Some of you geeks with beards may remember the DSDP (Deep Sea Drilling Project) or the recently completed ODP (Ocean Drilling Program). The real advance in the new program that will cost well over a billion dollars is the IODP riser drill ship that 'will provide a way to drill into continental margins where oil and gas deposits can cause drilling safety concerns and into regions with thick sediment sections, fault zones, and unstable formations.' A good overview of the IODP can be found here, and the necessary references to Megalodon and none other than The Core."
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Drilling Under the Sea

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  • by P-Frank (788137) on Monday June 28, 2004 @05:14AM (#9549196) Homepage
    Is it completely necessary to reference The Core? It makes me remember it all over again. My poor, feeble mind will implode if I even try to comprehend the physics behind that film, let alone the acting. Oh god, the acting...
    • Worst film ever (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      But check out 'Hack the planet!'

      Possibly the worst (or best?) casting as the pants sniffing dog-loving guy out of road trip as a hacker who hacks the planet.

      I am just suprised that they didn't send a virus to the center of the earth to fix everything :-)

      A guy has a laser that can cut through rock, in a blast of dust, but without causing huge flames.

      When they hit the molten rock, how did they not just fall through it? gravity man, or do they float in molten rock?

      aaaah whatever.
    • I saw that film in German. You think the physics and bad acting are bad, see it in German.

      Nothing says "this stinks and is a total waste of my godamn time" more than seeing any film, even B-grade trash, in German.

    • Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fthagn n'gaa gl'abbwrng uglw. Gh-a lugmw'wu nchl'a-a elrg, naphlagg-wa gnpug'lna.

      In his house at R'lyeh dead Cthulhu waits dreaming o squid of negotiable affection. Suddenly he wakes up with a huge fucking metal rod up his tendril.
    • What's wrong with those lasers, and unobtainium [claytonbailey.com]? Besides, the flying trout [eeggs.com] makes it all ok.

      While speaking of movies and underwater drilling - The Abyss [imdb.com], anyone?

  • Diamonds? (Score:4, Funny)

    by N4DMX (614024) on Monday June 28, 2004 @05:14AM (#9549198)
    What if there really are big diamonds like in The Core? It would be odd seeing a forklift wheeling out the back room of the jeweler's bearing a single engagement ring.
    • Yeah, but what are odds she'd say no after see-ing a ring bigger than her? And the odds of NOT jumping off a very tall place if she did say no.

      Mycroft
      • What are the odds of her not demanding that the groom fritter away his life-savings on useless knick-knack like diamond rings? :-)

        (Honest, I'm not bitter, just ... puzzled.)

    • by Omega1045 (584264)
      What if there really are big diamonds like in The Core? It would be odd seeing a forklift wheeling out the back room of the jeweler's bearing a single engagement ring.

      Sounds like Jo Lo's next wedding ring (after divorcing her current husband).

    • Re:Diamonds? (Score:4, Informative)

      by SubtleNuance (184325) on Monday June 28, 2004 @10:42AM (#9550721) Journal
      Diamonds are note really rare. Diamonds can be manufactured indistinguishable from mined diamonds (arguably better, the environmental impact of diamond mines is presently offloaded to the commons (yes, i know making diamonds require energy etc)

      Diamonds are a scam in every way... mostly, I feel sorry for people who spend money thinking its an investment, when really, it is the ultimate testiment to consumer culture and shallowness. The more you spend on diamonds, the more empty headed you are.

      • Re:Diamonds? (Score:3, Informative)

        by mpe (36238)
        Diamonds are note really rare.

        Just well controlled by a cartel.

        Diamonds can be manufactured indistinguishable from mined diamonds (arguably better, the environmental impact of diamond mines is presently offloaded to the commons (yes, i know making diamonds require energy etc)

        Quite a lot of work has been invested in being able to distinguish a mined and manufactured gem diamond. For industrial diamonds there is less of a fuss to be made.

        Diamonds are a scam in every way... mostly, I feel sorry for peo
      • Re:Diamonds? (Score:3, Informative)

        by WhiteBandit (185659)
        Excellent article on man-made diamonds via Wired Magazine">Wired Magazine [wired.com].

      • by cynic10508 (785816)

        The more you spend on diamonds, the more empty headed you are.

        Or well trained by your significant other.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 28, 2004 @05:23AM (#9549222)
    Under the sea
    Under the sea
    There'll be no accusations
    Just friendly crustaceans
    Under the sea!
  • Why the core? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Hungus (585181) on Monday June 28, 2004 @05:24AM (#9549226) Journal
    "and the necessary references to Megalodon and none other than The Core."
    I would have thought the The Abyss [imdb.com] would have been a much better reference than The Core. Certainly better science, and for that matter better science fiction.
    • Re:Why the core? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by ScottGant (642590)
      Yes, the Abyss was a better movie...but even that had problems.

      1. In real life, wouldn't you really think that it was a russian or other type of sub down there? The one Seal said it's probably a Russian sub and everyone jumps all over him "you're crazy! Obviously it's from outer-space! you're insane!". Well, I'm not suffering from HPNS up here on land and even I wouldn't think of something more down-to-Earth.

      2. The part where the water tentacle is interacting with the characters, mimicing what they're doi
      • Re:Why the core? (Score:3, Informative)

        by HFXPro (581079)
        At that depth and pressure, I thought a mixture of helium and oxygen was more the norm...though I don't remember the science behind it. But I guess they didn't want everyone talking like Mickey Mouse, though it may have been more entertaining.

        You would not have to use helium just because it is deep. A normal sealevel atmospheric composition will work fine, and provided your hull is tough enough, you could leave it at 1 atmosphere. Of course this would pose to problems:

        1. Having to make the hull real
      • "...wouldnt he have to decompress on the way back up?" The lifeforms that brought everyone back to the surface did it all without needing to decompress anyone. They just "fixed" it all.
        • Yeah, I know that happened, but they didn't know that when he went down there. They were all hoping he'd go down there, unarm the bomb and then get back...it wasn't until after he unarmed the bomb did they realize there wasn't enough oxygen for him to get back.

          What I'm wondering is how would he have gotten back anyway, even if he did have enough to just drop his weights and float up...wouldn't he have to decompress, or would there be less nitrogen in his bloodstream from the oxygenated fluid?

          Ok, just real
          • Plus he (the character) said (or rather typed) that he knew it would be a one way trip. Of course it is Science Fiction (or probably more appropriately science fantasy) and movie physics != reality in approaching 100% of the time.
            • Yup. I think it was just his wife that didn't know it was one way.
              He didnt even bother to warn other would be 'falling down a big hole after a bomb' people that you cant see colours with a green light stick.
              Selfish sod.
      • On the last point, a liquid isn't compressible in itself. The pressure as such is due to the large quantity of water around. The way this works is that if you take a litre of sea-water from ten metres down in a cosed container to the surface, it doesn't expand when it is opened. If you take a litre of gas at the surrounding water pressure from 10 metres down (as, for example, from SCUBA gear), it will double in volume at the surface.

        What this means is that if you can replace all gas inside your body with

        • My first engineering job out of college was at a water-jet company. I can tell you from experience while water isn't very compressible it most certainly is compressible. I don't remember where the transition is but I can safely say that water at 60-100k psi does not behave the way you would think water would. (oh and it is compressed at those pressures). All that aside however I understand your point. teh delta between a gas's compression and a liquid's compression at terrestrial pressures is well astronomi
        • by general_re (8883) on Monday June 28, 2004 @08:51AM (#9549835) Homepage
          On the last point, a liquid isn't compressible in itself.

          Of course it is. If you hold the temperature and salinity constant, then the density of seawater increases with the depth due to progressively higher pressures as you go deeper - you can see that quite clearly by playing with this seawater density calculator [flinders.edu.au] (try 15 degrees and a salinity of 35, then increase the pressure from 1 to 1000 to 10,000 kPa, and watch what happens to the density).

          Greater density means more seawater per unit of volume as you go deeper, which you can do because liquids are, in fact, readily compressible, albeit not as compressible as gases are. Bringing water up from a depth of 10 meters simply isn't deep enough to observe the effect you want to observe. Bring water up from 10,000 meters, say from the bottom of the Marianas trench, and you will indeed observe it expanding quite forcefully when you open its container - if you don't have a container that can withstand the internal pressure of that water trying to expand, it'll go pop as you try to bring it back up.

          • by hughk (248126) on Monday June 28, 2004 @09:29AM (#9550117) Journal
            Good point, but if liquids were as compressible as a gas, then hydraulics woudn't work so well!

            The air-pressure/liquid pressure differential wouldn't have been that great. Please remember that the abode has a moon-pool. It is only the extra pressure as the diver goes down the trench to warn the aliens that counts.

            Last thing is that the diver is not using sea-water. I seem to remember it is some kind of perfluoro-carbon. Certainly it has been used for premature-babies with success, but more pertinently for animals to simulate deep dives (to 1000 metres from sea-level and back). The ascent was much faster than normal but there were no signs of decompression sickness. The mouse did die later for other reasons which is why nobody is diving with it now.

            • Good point, but if liquids were as compressible as a gas, then hydraulics woudn't work so well!

              True enough. Although there are precision applications, such as aircraft controls, where you want to take even a small amount of fluid compression into account - if your flaps are a degree or two lower or higher than you think they are, the results are potentially unpleasant.

              Anyway, I just wanted to point out that liquids do indeed compress, albeit generally not as easily as gases, as you say - under normal

            • BTW, if my back-of-the-envelope scribblings are correct, at 16,000 PSI - the very deep parts of the ocean - water would lose about 5% of its volume due to the pressure.
            • Good point, but if liquids were as compressible as a gas, then hydraulics woudn't work so well!

              Liquids can be compressed just fine. Simply throw them into a neutron star or black hole.

      • ....a wizard did it.
  • by vi (editor) (791442) on Monday June 28, 2004 @05:50AM (#9549291)
    Why isn't a robotic drilling submarine used ? It could operate in any depths and the drilling operation wouldn't depend on local weather condition.
    • by the_twisted_pair (741815) on Monday June 28, 2004 @06:53AM (#9549455)
      A quick Google will show you just how big all the equipment involved in drilling really is, and just how much power is required to support drilling operations - a hint, it's in the megawatt range. You are not doing it with batteries. Ships like this have huge deck-mounted powerplant independant of the propulsion requirements to cope with demand.

      There's simply not enough space to store the necessary equipment on board, esp. when you consider the need for bentonite coolant circulation etc. Assembling the drill string either through or outside the hull would be an interesting problem, as would the bouyancy/stability control as you dump a few hundred tons of payload overboard.

      So a nice idea, but much more economical done from a big surface ship - even when it means waiting on the weather.

    • That's the exact question that should have been asked about the Glomar Explorer. [the-kgb.com]

      The Russian sub they built the Explorer to salvage wasn't a particularly interesting design -- it was a "Golf" class, nothing new -- and we could have gotten basically all the worthwhile intelligence from the wreck by going in through the hull and retrieving the cipher equipment. Instead the CIA built a massive white elephant of a drilling ship, with a cover story about oil drilling, to pull up the entire sub. (It didn't work

  • by seaker (141236) on Monday June 28, 2004 @05:54AM (#9549306)
    http://www.jamstec.go.jp/jamstec-e/odinfo/sdsrepor t.html
  • Ooh goody! (Score:2, Interesting)

    by wa5ter (628478)
    I think it's great that we do all this drilling and practicing with submarines. After all if we're drilling up even more oil, we'd better get used to the under sea life.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 28, 2004 @06:27AM (#9549401)
    Here in Nigeria (!) we are developing deep space mining ships and your money will help us continue our secret space mining program...
  • by dbirchall (191839) on Monday June 28, 2004 @06:51AM (#9549449) Journal
    Finally, a ship they can use to seek out and disturb R'lyeh...
    • Finally, a ship they can use to seek out and disturb R'lyeh...

      Wouldn't that be a positive change in leadership?

      As a bonus, consider what will happen when the RIAA/MPAA sends lobbiests to plead for a new restrictive law? No more lobbiests and the bill isn't passed.

      I'm really not seeing a downside.

  • by B4RSK (626870) on Monday June 28, 2004 @07:16AM (#9549513)
    Chikyu (should be Chikyuu actually) is Japanese for Earth, as in the planet we live on.

    Just in case anyone is curious.
  • by denjin (115496)
    Is that newspeak for "I can't use a dictionary"?
  • http://science.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=04/06/2 8/0046201&mode=thread&tid=134&tid=141&tid= 188
  • Its not about oil (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 28, 2004 @08:41AM (#9549787)
    So far most of the posts here have been referring to oil. While oil is commonly drilled for, it is not the only reason one would explore the sediment and rock under the seafloor.

    most notably, paleoclimate and paleocirculation studies use various proxies found the sediments of the seafloor. The oceans provide a much more continuous record than one can find on land. these proxies can be correlated with other methods and other locations. From these records everything from sea surface temperature to icecap volumes can be modeled.

  • no no no no no (Score:1, Interesting)

    by ajs318 (655362)
    Why?! Why?! Why?!

    Why must we deplete more of the Earth's precious resources like this? Look, we know we're going to run out of oil sooner or later. That's a certainty. Why don't we just accept that now and get working on the alternatives, so we're actually ready for the day when the oil does run out?

    The first phase should be to develop a "drop-in" replacement for petroleum fuels, manufactured from plants and waste products, and usable in existing engines with little to no alteration. The priority
    • Re:no no no no no (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Idarubicin (579475) <allsquiet.hotmail@com> on Monday June 28, 2004 @10:33AM (#9550642) Journal
      Why must we deplete more of the Earth's precious resources like this?

      Er...the Earth isn't exactly using them. To imply that the use of petroleum products is somehow 'stealing' from the Earth is silly. I could make an equally specious argument that building solar panels is stealing sunlight from the areas that they cover--not to mention 'depleting Earth's precious supplies of silicon and germanium'.

      Apparently, there is still money to be made from additional drilling, even under very challenging conditions. Consequently, the attempt will be made.

      I agree that finding alternative sources of energy is worthwhile, but looking for alternative energy sources does not preclude extending the current supply of fossil fuels.

      If you'd like to argue on the basis of environmental impact, you've got something to stand on there. If you'd like to argue on the basis of human health impact then you've got some substance there, too. If you'd like to argue that there will be economic displacements if we're unprepared for increasing oil scarcity, that's worth talking about. Arguing that we should stop using fossil fuels now because they're going to run out eventually--er, why?

      Incidentally, several of the things the parent post mentions are already being done. Many public transportation vehicles in North America and Europe are using alternate fuels; private fleet vehicles are beginning to adopt them as well. Hybrid cars--which do not eliminate, but do reduce the use of fossil fuels--are being sold to the public now.

      Why push an agenda of nationalizing industry? What is gained by that? It makes rather more sense to put in place a public policy framework that rewards the use of alternative fuels (and/or penalizes the use of fossil fuels) and let the market find the optimal solution. I'd rather not drive a car that was designed by the British/U.S./Canadian government, thank you very much.

      Further, taxing gasoline heavily has encouraged the purchase of more fuel-efficient vehicles already. Compare and contrast the cars driven in Europe with the SUVs sold in North America. I am also pleased to note that SUV sales in even the United States have taken a hit with the recent sustained higher gasoline prices.

      Yes, I know. I shouldn't feed the trolls. I apologize.

      • Re:no no no no no (Score:2, Interesting)

        by ajs318 (655362)

        Er...the Earth isn't exactly using them. To imply that the use of petroleum products is somehow 'stealing' from the Earth is silly.

        The Earth is using them: they are keeping carbon out of circulation. Burning fossil fuels adds CO2 to the atmosphere. Growing plants remove CO2 from the atmosphere; if the plant is later burned, then the same amount of CO2 is returned to the atmosphere. There is no net loss or gain. That is a good reason to stop extracting fossil fuels.

        Continuing to use the present sup

        • "The Earth is using them: they are keeping carbon out of circulation. Burning fossil fuels adds CO2 to the atmosphere. Growing plants remove CO2 from the atmosphere; if the plant is later burned, then the same amount of CO2 is returned to the atmosphere. There is no net loss or gain. That is a good reason to stop extracting fossil fuels. "

          Recent studies of forest materials in Alaska and the release of CO2 as a result of naturally-occurring forest fires have shown that a tremendous amount of C is locked up

    • by umrgregg (192838) on Monday June 28, 2004 @10:51AM (#9550808) Homepage
      Did you even RTFA? No. The IODP is not for oil exploration. I'll let you do your own fsking research and figure it out for yourself. As a matter of fact, these research vessels take great precautions to AVOID hydrocarbons because of their lack of blow out prevention devices. Finding oil and gas is a hazard to these vessels. Your post seems interesting enough, but its offtopic and not even remotely related to the scientific research being carried out by IODP.
    • The first phase should be to develop a "drop-in" replacement for petroleum fuels, manufactured from plants and waste products, and usable in existing engines with little to no alteration.

      Rudolph Diesel and Frank Whittle ran their prototype engines on vegetable oil anyway.
      Thing is that oil isn't just used for fueling internal combustion engines. You'd need to find alternatives for the entire petro-chemical industry. This includes methane which is often found with oil.
    • Re:no no no no no (Score:3, Informative)

      by WhiteBandit (185659)
      Err, as others have stated, the goal of the IODP (and before that, the ODP) isn't to find mineral deposits. It's strictly a research vessel to carry out science.

      Quite a bit of interesting science has been carried out. Last year, Dr. Alan Mix [oregonstate.edu], a professor who worked on the ship, spoke at our school for a seminar. He dealt with paleoclimates. Using the ODP to extract cores from the sea floor, he was able to determine global temperatures from the amount of Oxygen-18 (I believe?) isotopes that were trapped in
    • Re:no no no no no (Score:5, Insightful)

      by gillbates (106458) on Monday June 28, 2004 @11:58AM (#9551361) Homepage Journal

      Why?

      Well, the short answer is because we like to eat.

      We already have engines that run on Hydrogen. Ford has been making methane powered vehicles for the past 10-15 years. We've had usable solar power devices for 20-30 years.

      The problem isn't that we don't have the technology; the problem is that fossil-fuel energy is simply more economically viable. The problem is that a $40,000 solar array would have to be in service, maintainence free, for 20 to 40 years before the owner would even begin to save money on electric bills. Even if the homeowner saves money on the 20th year and keeps his house another 20 years, he's only effectively earned $20,000 in savings. Contrast this with investing $40,000 in the stock market over the same time frame - the return is in the millions.

    • Why don't we just accept that now and get working on the alternatives, so we're actually ready for the day when the oil does run out?

      Because oil won't be available at full level one day and then gone the next day. It will slowly be used up and fields will go dry one at a time. As they run out, supply will slowly contract and price will gradually rise. Your drop-in replacement plan will happen when it is economically feasable. Right now it isn't. So why spend extra on development today when the repla
  • Peak Oil is near (Score:4, Informative)

    by per11 (650595) on Monday June 28, 2004 @09:18AM (#9550043)
    This is just another indicator that oil production is beginning to decline. To keep up with the growing market demand from increased population, developing countries, etc., oil companies are looking into new and dangerous ways to get the remaining oil on earth. For more information, Google "peak oil."
  • You sure he isn't going to visit the thresher and/or scorpion [216.239.39.104] again?? Wonder if the US Navy has secretly contributed to this project...

    Work with me...I've got the Mondays [wavsite.com]...

  • great... (Score:1, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    ...let's go ahead and f***-up the oceans, BEFORE we understand them....just like the way we did the rest of our Earth.
  • by TheMeddler (790145) on Monday June 28, 2004 @10:53AM (#9550823)
    IODP does not search for oil - it is collecting scientific data. Don't bother bringing up any conspiracy theories - the oil companies have much better proprietary data in the areas that IODP is drilling than the open-source (i.e. IODP) ocean science community will EVEER have.

    IODPs previous ships (or rather, ODP, its predecessor oceandrilling.org [oceandrilling.org] ) were not able to drill in areas of the continental margin that might have contained oil deposists. It is actually pretty dangerous - if you hit a gas deposit, the density of the water can be reduced to the point that the ship loses bouyancy and sinks - almost instantly.

    As a result of safety concerns related to this, IODP was unable to drill in some very enticing (i.e. data rich) environments. This new vessel will allow them to drill pretty much anywhere, which should greatly increase the available database. IODP research is focussed largely on earth dynamics, paleontology, paleoclimate/climate change, and stratigraphy. Oil is near the bottom of the list - as previously mentioned, the oil companies already have better data. Researchers interested in oil are typically working elsewhere.
    • As a kid, I and many other like minded kids with a shovel, while we were not going to dig all the way to China, we were going to tunnel pretty far down. I made it as far as the (shallow) water table, and a crayfish made its home at the bottom of the pit that was pretty cool. I think my parents used the hole to plant a tree.

      So you can imagine that when I had heard about Project Mohole (c 1960) to dig a really deep hole, I thought it had to be the neatest thing. Thing is, Brown and Root burned through al

  • by umrgregg (192838) on Monday June 28, 2004 @11:17AM (#9551011) Homepage
    ...but the IODP is not about the exploration for hydrocarbons. Its about planetary research. One of the bonuses of this new vessel is that it can better withstand the elements of ACCIDENTALLY drilling into gas reservoirs making it better suited for exploration drilling on ocean slopes. This is definitely NOT about oil and gas. You mods should RTFA before marking up completely off topic comments about US energy consumption and oil as interesting and insightful.
  • In case some of you didn't RTFAs, I'd like to point out that these scientific drilling programs have almost nothing to do with finding oil (the marine scientists leave that to the oil companies for the most part). Instead they are about understanding geologic processes that take place on the ocean floor.

    On land, you can usually find a natural outcrop or a quarry or a mine to walk up to and examine the history of the Earth's crust in that area. Sometimes you even get hints to what's going on deeper in the
  • Where are they when you need them?

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