News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Opinion Columns

January 3, 2014

RONN MOTT: Oil could grease local wheels

TERRE HAUTE — I was given an outside look the other day to the Pioneer Oil’s drilling for oil, about the end of Sycamore Street near ISU’s campus. It is properly fenced and walled so safety is, obviously, a big concern. But, so typical of oil drilling, the very best of what is happening is not seen. It’s happening underground.   

What this drilling is trying to achieve is finding oil and getting it to the surface with the least amount of disruption.

And it all started about 130 million years ago. It began as a shoal in an ancient primal sea, and over the millions of years it grew into a small mound of things being suppressed into what it has become. In and around this ancient knob of land, rock and so on is oil. The hope is it can be extracted and can be profitable for all concerned.

It sits quite a few city blocks from where the drilling rig is. If I understand it correctly, the way it works now could not have happened without today’s technology. The drill goes down to a certain point and then goes west to the spot where they believe oil can be found. Straight down drilling at that point is impossible because of all the things that are on the top, or near the top, in the ground at that location. So, this drilling that goes down and takes a left turn, or westerly turn, is monitored by electronic eyes that make sure the drilling pipe has completed the turn and is going in the right direction.  

A great many people will benefit from this technological marvel. How much oil is there I do not know, but estimates, obviously, show there is a considerable amount. The company in charge of this has a wonderful record of being successful and operating safely without almost any kind of baggage. My informants tell me it’s one of the best in this part of the country.

So what could have started as a coral reef 130 million years ago ultimately ended up as a resting place for organisms that became known as (what we call) oil. And this new technology allows the oil company that is doing the drilling not only to go straight down, but in a 360 degree angle as it is needed.

Drilling is still a tough job … it’s why the drillers are called “roughnecks.” And with safety and ecological precautions, this has been going on with very little interruption to work and general living in the area. It is amazing, and the university has, hopefully, found a new source of income.

Oil fuels our trucks, autos, trains, aircraft and, if found in a proper amount, it will be coming out from under ISU sideways to grease the wheels of commerce and, in this case, education.

Ronn Mott, a longtime radio personality in Terre Haute, writes commentaries for the Tribune-Star. His pieces are published online Tuesday and Thursday on Tribstar.com, and in the print and online editions on Saturday.

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