#ShowerThoughts: why do oil extraction operations burn off ("flare") natural gas (mainly methane), instead of having a gas-powered electricity generation plant onsite, or using some of the gas to power a plant that compresses the rest into a more portable form? It seems like a ridiculous waste of a non-renewable energy source.

@strypey Mostly, chalk this up to the fact that gas is a lot harder to store and transport than liquid.

In early oil exploration, oil was literally stored in whiskey barrels (the reason the "barrel" is a standard measure), or in emergencies, in earthen dikes and dams (see the Lakeview Gusher story).

Today, oil storage is mostly in large flat loosely-covered (often floating cover) cylindrical tanks. Pressure is purely hydrostatic, and risks are relatively few.

Transport is via pipeline.


@strypey And to be clear, as with previous discussions, I'm not defending oil here, I'm _explaining_ it. What were the properties that lead to oil literally changing *everything* in civilisation beginning around 1859?

It's immensely useful stuff.

With ... some exceedingly pervasive problems: nonrenewability, exhaustibility, local acute pollution, long-term global climate change, economic, social and political disruptions.

But all grounded in its fundamental utility.


@strypey Before rock-oil, the most useful fuels for humans were generally biologically-derived oils (which petroleum of course is, though at greater reach: dge.carnegiescience.edu/DGE/Du).

Notably olive oil (the palace of Minos on Crete had immense stores of the stuff), tallow and other animal fats (chandlering was messy smelly work), flax, and other plant oils (though in what quantities I'm not sure). Note: all lipids.

And of course fuel wood, coal's predecessor (and coal is ancient wood).

@strypey Thing is that if you need to *grow* your fuel-stock, you're limited to, well, what will grow in a given period of time.

For oil (and coal and gas) the growing season was 100 - 400 million years ago. We're just rooting through the grannery, and more importantly: don't give any heed to replacement cost.

Rates of consumption are 5 million times that of formation -- we're cutting through ~500 million years of petoil formation in about a century. That of course ends poorly.

@strypey But while you can pump it from the ground cheaply, it's wonderful.

Look up the story of Indian's end-of-the-century natural gas boom for a truly staggering lesson on hubris and idiocy:


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