BP won’t abandon its big Gulf of Mexico find, retired Park City oilman suspects
Leon Daniel acknowledges the BP disaster in the Gulf of Mexico — the loss of the workers and the environmental catastrophe that he anticipates will last for years.
Daniel, though, unlike many who have closely followed the explosion and oil spill, also sees what he considers great energy prospects at the site. Daniel, a retired oilman who lives in the Aerie, says people are not envisioning what could someday become a significant domestic oil producer.
The site, Daniel says, could turn out to be the largest domestic find in years, perhaps since discoveries in Alaska in the late 1960s. Once BP is able to stop the flow of the oil, he suspects the firm will start developing an oil field.
"If you don’t go ahead and develop that field, it’s not worth anything," Daniel says, adding, "If all they do is plug the well and walk away from that discovery, it’s kind of like a soldier dying in vain."
He says it will be best if the discovery is developed as an oil field as fast as possible once the flow is halted and the cleanup is well underway. Daniel says the oil that the site could later produce could slash the United States’ dependence on imported oil and increase domestic oil reserves.
"How many wells in the U.S.A. produce 60,000 barrels a day? I bet there’s not another one in the U.S.A., even in the North Slope," he says, referring to the heavy production in the northern reaches of Alaska and calling the BP oil find in the Gulf of Mexico "a huge discovery in American water."
Daniel, who is 73 years old and has lived in Park City for 11 years, spent 53 years as an oilman, working internationally in places like the Soviet Union, Libya, Nigeria, Colombia and the North Sea. In his career, an oil discovery in Libya is the only one larger than what BP found in the Gulf of Mexico.
He visited Iraq as part of a business mission after the ousting of Saddam Hussein as he sought contracts to rebuild Iraq’s oil infrastructure. He traveled to Kuwait after the first Gulf War bidding on the rebuilding of the Kuwaiti oil industry and the firefighting work after retreating Iraqi forces set oil wells ablaze.
He brings a unique perspective to the debates about BP, having been involved in the 1980s with the firm that suffered a deadly explosion on an oil platform in the North Sea.
The Piper Alpha disaster in 1988 killed 167 workers on the platform, and Daniel at the time was an executive with Occidental Petroleum. He recalls receiving a phone call about the Piper Alpha explosion, saying that the oil platform collapsed and three-quarters of the structure sunk into the North Sea. It had been producing approximately 200,000 barrels of oil per day, Daniel recalls.
"You’ve got to come and deal with the dead people. You have to put the people No. 1, for sure," he says.
Daniel criticizes President Obama as the administration continues to respond to the BP disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, challenging the president on statements he has made about BP and the initial prospects of bans on drilling, saying an Obama administration push for a moratorium soon after the disaster was "ill-conceived."
Daniel rates the Obama administration’s response to the disaster as average, at best, saying that rating him a 5 out of 10 "would be generous." He indicates he would give BP’s handling of the disaster a similar rating. Obama’s hard-hitting public statements, Daniel says, have not impressed him.
He says Washington does not have the expertise to respond to the disaster, and Daniel would recommend Obama rely on BP to manage the situation. He says the federal government did not make preparations for a response like the one needed in the Gulf of Mexico. If Washington wanted to lead the response, it should have been preparing for the scenario long ago, with the Clinton administration and President George W. Bush pressing for wider preparations, Daniel says.
"He’s not thinking. He’s just an immature person," Daniel says about Obama. "Nobody’s going to respond like that who’s trying to objectively solve the problem."
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