39
$\begingroup$

I have a group of ecoterrorists who want to limit the amount of CO2 the world puts out in a drastic way: by poisoning oil fields so that the oil becomes unuseable, or at least forever uneconomical to pump up.

Unfortunately I haven't yet thought of a way to do this, not even with unrealistic wealth and technical capabilities. Burning it underground or having it "eaten" by bacteria or so would just output the CO2 immediately. Injecting water into the field is actually used as a way to get more production out of it.

Injecting sulfur to make the quality of the oil really low? We get sulfur from oil in the first place, so there is apparently a way to get it out, and there will be a market for all that sulfur because there is an ecoterrorist group buying all of it...

I guess my best bet is another chemical that makes the oil too dangerous / uneconomical to use, but can't be easily extracted from the oil. That exists in sufficient quantities to poison at least a small oil field.

Another option is to make the field inaccessible somehow, make it impossible to have wells there, but I don't know how.

Any ideas?

$\endgroup$
  • 14
    $\begingroup$ It doesn't have to be "at least forever uneconomical". If it were to happen now for a period of a few years (~20?), renewable energy sources would skyrocket, making oil on large scale obsolete. $\endgroup$ – Martijn Jun 10 '16 at 13:04
  • 7
    $\begingroup$ What about some pseudobiologycal way to polymerize it? It would turn oil fields into solid blocks of plastic and they could only be mined like solid goods. $\endgroup$ – mg30rg Jun 10 '16 at 14:08
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ I feel as if it would be easier for them to just pump up the oil themselves and store it in a secret location... $\endgroup$ – Waterlimon Jun 10 '16 at 14:13
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ "Poisoning" a well... or 10... or 100... or even 1000... wouldn't make a dent in the oil supply. The Bakken formation, for example, is 200,000 sq miles in size, and thats just one of several such areas in the US. $\endgroup$ – GrandmasterB Jun 10 '16 at 16:12
  • 22
    $\begingroup$ What if OP is actually planning on doing this but WB is the only non-suspicious place to ask how? 0.0 $\endgroup$ – Duncan X Simpson Jun 10 '16 at 20:10

17 Answers 17

56
$\begingroup$

One way I can think of: Just look at Fukushima and how hard it is to filter radioactive elements out of water - I bet filtering them out of oil would not be any easier. Rather the opposite, I'd expect.

So the ecoterrorists could inject radioactive materials (maybe they stole used up fuel from a nuclear plant and ground it up?) into the oil field, arguing that the radiation won't hurt anyone... as long as it all stays deep underground.

Even if the oil companies came up with filters to remove the radioactive materials, the civilian population might not trust that the oil is safe to use now. Especially if someone were to spread rumors that the oil is still radioactive and the companies just bribe the controllers into giving them a clean stamp.

$\endgroup$
  • 16
    $\begingroup$ Yeah, especially when ecoterrorist groups already often spread half-truths or lies about certain products and they do not need any evidence (such as radioactivity measurement) for the people to believe them. Come to think of it, hoax can be as dangerous to business as barell full of nuclear waste. $\endgroup$ – Tomáš Zato Jun 10 '16 at 11:27
  • 8
    $\begingroup$ I think cleaning oil from radioactive elements would be ways easier than doing the same with water. For starters, water naturally circulates, so gathering it is a hard task itself. Also, heavy elements (or radioactive isotopes) can be filtered from any liquid by fractionated distillation - something what is already being done to crude oil in the process of making gas. $\endgroup$ – mg30rg Jun 10 '16 at 14:15
  • 20
    $\begingroup$ No, this will not work. 1) fossil fuels are already radioactive; everything stuck in the ground for millions of years are. The burning of coal releases more radioactive substances to the air than nuclear power does (because let latter actually keep their sh*t tight). The Deepwater Horizon spill dumped ~60 kg of uranium in the Gulf of Mexico with the oil. But since there are millions of tons of it in that same body of sea water already, no-one noticed a measly 60 kg over all the much more toxic, sticky crude. $\endgroup$ – MichaelK Jun 10 '16 at 17:46
  • 15
    $\begingroup$ 2) Yes, Greenpeace and other such scaremongers love the "radiation is an invisible scary killer that you cannot see, hear or smell before IT GIVES YOU CANCER AND ACUTE RADIATION SICKNESS!!!" trope. Reality however is diametrically opposite to this trope. Radiation is stupidly easy to detect and avoid. 3) The amount of radioactive materials you need to get hold of to get anywhere with this is.... shall we say call it "prohibitive" to this scheme. You need tons of the stuff to make an impact. $\endgroup$ – MichaelK Jun 10 '16 at 17:50
  • 6
    $\begingroup$ Plus, they'd probably kill themselves while grinding up the radioactive materials. Holding a (subcritical) sphere of plutonium is no big deal, but breathe in a little plutonium dust and you'll get sick quite quickly. $\endgroup$ – db48x Jun 11 '16 at 2:30
30
$\begingroup$

I imagine that the cheapest and most likely option would the use of phase-selective organogelators which are already used to clean up oil spills in some cases.

They're cheap, being based on sugars and alcohols, available in large enough quantities, aren't tightly controlled, make it much more difficult to pump up the oil in the first place, and are difficult to untangle from the oil once they're mixed. ("The recovery of oil from polymer gels is cumbersome").

Kind of surprising that no one's done this already, now that I think about it. Might be related to the fact that "gelling oil wells" isn't as exciting or useful in a propaganda reel as throwing Molotov cocktails at SUVs on a suburban car dealership lot.

$\endgroup$
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ How much volume of chemical do you need to gel any significant fraction of the world's oil reserves, though? Unless a small amount of this stuff can catalyse a huge amount of reaction without getting used up itself, I don't see how this is viable. Please expand your answer to clear that up, if possible. $\endgroup$ – Peter Cordes Jun 11 '16 at 3:02
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ You don't have to polymerize all the oil. Only the oil near the pump. $\endgroup$ – celtschk Jun 11 '16 at 6:31
  • $\begingroup$ @celtschk "the pump"? There are thousands of pumps. Probably hundreds of thousands. $\endgroup$ – David Richerby Jun 11 '16 at 10:52
  • 11
    $\begingroup$ @PeterCordes well, in point of fact, there is no viable way to block access to all the world's oil with just a little of something, because the world's proven oil reserves are into the trillions of gallons across tens of thousands of locations. It would be like blocking access to the world's water, or blocking out the sun. If you want to "poison" trillions of gallons of something that's located in in tens of thousands of locations all over the world, it's going to take a lot of "poison", yes. So the question itself is fairly impractical, but I don't think there's a more practical way. $\endgroup$ – HopelessN00b Jun 11 '16 at 11:19
  • $\begingroup$ @HopelessN00b - could we make a massive distopian horror story where oil-eating bacteria that excrete an organogelator go rogue, and threaten the entire ecosystem? $\endgroup$ – user24000 Oct 15 '16 at 23:38
19
$\begingroup$

Given the expertise oil companies have in extracting, purifying and refining oil, you can assume that they will figure out a way to remove any poisoning from the oil once it's in a storage tank.

So, whatever your eco-terrorists use, it must have its effects before or during the extraction from the ground.

Chemicals

Highly corrosive chemicals could eat through metal pipes and pumps, but most likely would just cause a delay until new resistant coatings are applied to the pipes and pumping goes back to normal. There is also the matter of the quantities needed to prevent them being diluted too much.

A second, more complicated idea would be to enclose oxidizing agents in some kind of bubbles or membranes. They'd float around in the oil until the violence of the pumping ruptures the membranes, allowing the oil and oxidizers to get it on and explode, hopefully inside the pumping stations or underground pipes.

Bacteria

A mix of metal and plastic eating bacteria might work, but it's unlikely they would survive down in the oil field until they reach a pipe, unless they can metabolize oil (which is not what you want).

Nannites Catalyst Delivery System

With the right catalysts, the oil could be made to bond into a sticky, plastic-like mass. The difficulty is in getting enough catalyst into the oil field and preventing it from getting enclosed in said sticky mess.

If water is being pumped in to flush the oil out, that would be a good way to sabotage an existing oil field. Introduce the catalyst into the pumping water and walk away.

if nothing is being pumped down or there are no drilling sites yet, things get more complicated. A drone might be design to swim down through oil pipes (with the pump being stopped obviously) and spread the catalyst, but it couldn't cover an entire oil field by itself, hence my original idea to use a swarm of nannites.

To combine my ideas, the ultimate solution might be a strain of bacteria that produce the catalyst. They don't have to eat all of the oil, just enough to turn the rest into gooey plastics.

$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ The nanites idea seems very attractive. Is there any reason an artificial or biological catalyst couldn't be used instead? $\endgroup$ – cinnamon18 Jun 10 '16 at 11:26
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ That was my first idea, but I couldn't figure out how to spread the catalyst. If it promoted a solidifying reaction, it would get stuck inside its own rubber lumps before being able to spread. On reflection, it wouldn't need to be nanoscale actually. Some kind of small ring shaped devices with catalyst on the inside surface might produce nice spaghetti strands of rubber and push themselves forward in the process, hopefully spreading all throughout the oil reservoir. $\endgroup$ – Cyrus Jun 10 '16 at 11:38
  • $\begingroup$ The nanites section could be cut off, because of the tagging on the question. OP does not want sci-fi solutions. $\endgroup$ – Mindwin Jun 10 '16 at 13:43
17
$\begingroup$

You're working from a common misconception that 1) there is one substance called "oil" and 2) that it's all just sitting in natural tanks underground. Given this common misconception it would seem like you could just dump something into the "oil" in the "tank" and render it useless.

In fact, "oil" is comprised of a wide range of forms of hydrocarbons all of which exist in various types of geological matrices. The oil that gushes out in the classic Hollywood depiction is a mishmash of low-sulfur, low-viscosity, high-volatile hydrocarbons, in a shallow, highly porous layer of sedimentary rock which is pressurized by the degradation of the volatile elements into natural gas. Such oil has a very low "lifting cost" (which is why oil from the Gulf of Arabia is so relatively cheap) but trying to reverse the process would be nearly impossible.

Oil is spread out over not only vast areas but vast volumes. We also use billions of gallons of it a year. To contain enough oil to matter, it would take a contaminate infrastructure almost as large as the pumping infrastructure to even get close. The effort would cost billions and take years if not decades to implement.

In the meantime, there are lots of undeveloped oil fields out there that could be brought online in an emergency e.g. all the shallow water off-shore oil fields in North America blocked off not because of ecological reasons, but because of coastal property values. Those could be brought online faster than wells could be destroyed.

Given that the "Energy Crisis" of '73-'83 caused only Wage and Price controls, punitive taxation (which in turn enabled monopoly and embargo to cause a massive famine in Africa), several wars and likely killed 2-12 million people worldwide, and comprised the only multi-year period (including the Great Depression where the standard of living in the developed world went flat or actually decreased), I don't think anyone is going to stand around while the ecoterrorists progressively murder millions.

Seriously, most people simply have no clue how vast the energy infrastructure is. People who babble about us being "addicted" to oil are as idiotic as someone claiming we are all "addicted" to oxygen.

But they're going to learn. Nuclear power generates 20% of the US's electrical supply. The plants have a designed life time of 50 years max. We built our last plant in 1980; most were built in '65-'75. That means in four years, we either run the plants past their designed lifetime, or we start shutting them down. We will have to nearly triple our low-carbon emitting "alternate" energy scavenging system just to keep our power and carbon output where it is today. (Not counting the carbon debt we have incur to build low-carbon systems.)

Better hope the climate models are wrong, because otherwise we're screwed.

$\endgroup$
  • 19
    $\begingroup$ The second half of this answer rambles on and doesn't answer the question. $\endgroup$ – March Ho Jun 11 '16 at 0:01
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ @MarchHo that answers question well, because Q is under reality-check: To containment enough oil to matter, it would take a contaminate infrastructure almost as large as the pumping infrastructure - Reality-check results are oblivious negative for that Q. Although I like that radioactive variant, even if it is not feasibly, but at least it's last resort for ET. $\endgroup$ – MolbOrg Jun 12 '16 at 1:30
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ The climate models are essentially correct. I agree that nuclear power is good, and CO2 capture seems to be a viable technology. It's cheaper than giving up fossil fuels, and much cheaper than worldwide crop failures (which is where we're headed). $\endgroup$ – Beta Jun 12 '16 at 14:45
4
$\begingroup$

Pump a lot of mixed-weight hydrocarbons down the well where the carbon atoms are C-14 which is quite a potent beta emitter. The resulting oil would be too radioactive to handle and separation would be impossible.

For bonus points, the hydrogens could be Tritium!

$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ I think cleaning oil from radioactive elements would quite easy. Heavy elements (or radioactive isotopes) can be filtered from any liquid by fractionated distillation - something what is already being done to crude oil in the process of making gas. $\endgroup$ – mg30rg Jun 10 '16 at 14:19
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ @mg30rg the difference in weight between C-14 and C-12 is below the usual differences (two neutrons vs several heavy atoms). $\endgroup$ – Davidmh Jun 10 '16 at 14:41
  • $\begingroup$ The mass difference between C-12 and C-14 is 14% (actually some insignificant amount less). $\endgroup$ – mg30rg Jun 10 '16 at 14:57
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Isotope-selection/separation is very expensive and difficult, to say nothing of the fact that governments tend to kill you when you try procure thousands of tonnes of radioactive isotopes. Additionally, this plan basically amounts to getting into the business of manufacturing oil, because what you are proposing is to manufacture oil from radioactive isotopes. No safety or plausibility issues there. This is a project that only the most ridiculous cartoon supervillians would consider. $\endgroup$ – HopelessN00b Jun 10 '16 at 15:31
  • 7
    $\begingroup$ C14 is not potent -- it's a long-lived emitter, too weak to be easily detected on a GM counter and not particularly hazardous unless ingested. It would also be very hard to replace carbon in oil with it, for essentially the same reason it would be hard to separate the two. $\endgroup$ – Charles Jun 10 '16 at 20:15
4
$\begingroup$

Some chemicals or bacteria that turn oil into asphalt or bitumen should work. If oil is not liquid anymore it will be hard to extract.

$\endgroup$
  • 6
    $\begingroup$ Tell that to the miners of the Alberta oil sands.... $\endgroup$ – Thucydides Jun 10 '16 at 16:01
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @Thucydides I didn't say that it is impossible to extract. But it will be more expensive. If oil is buried deep enough it will be impossible to excavate it. $\endgroup$ – talex Jun 10 '16 at 16:19
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Thucydides Well, actually, that's the exact problem with those oil fields. It's much harder and more expensive to extract oil from them than it is from a a giant pool of liquid under a desert in the Middle East. "Canada's Oil Reserves 2nd Only To Saudi Arabia" ... yet, in spite of that, it's very difficult to make money off of the reserves, because it costs so much. "Canada oil sands producers now lose money on every barrel." $\endgroup$ – HopelessN00b Jun 10 '16 at 16:28
  • $\begingroup$ Many of the techniques developed for tracking and oil shale production come from oil sand production, and there is cross fertilization the other way as well. The downward pressure on oil prices has led to a relentless squeezing of costs, and many of the oil sand producers are able to stay afloat at 40/bbl, well down from the extraction cost of 80/bbl of even a decade ago. While there is some minimum cost floor, I suspect that we haven't quite reached it yet. $\endgroup$ – Thucydides Jun 10 '16 at 18:59
  • $\begingroup$ @HopelessN00b It's hard to make a profit now - but remove all their competition, and they'll make profit just fine. After all, those industries started to spring up when oil prices went high enough, and were quite profitable until the prices dropped like stone because of all the new sources of oil. All in all, poisoning the alternatives will only make everything more expensive for everyone without having any noticeable impact on the environment - kind of like most of the Green initiatives nowadays :D $\endgroup$ – Luaan Jun 13 '16 at 13:35
4
$\begingroup$

They could be incompetent or short sighted eco terrorists, and it doesn't matter that they use a method that would release a lot of co2.

"We destroyed the oil by pumping oil eating bacteria down! That'll stop them from pumping up the oil and producing more co2!"
"You moron, that'll just release all the co2 at once!"

There are enough idiots in the world that the idea that a small group of them working toward a cause with incomplete information is scarily believable.

Edit:
I should say that it's not about the bacteria. It could be fire, or nukes, or demonic summoning. The point is that no matter how bad a plan, or what the long term effects, some group of idiots will be dumb enough to try it if they think it's a shortcut to what they want.

$\endgroup$
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ There's actually a fairly rich microbe ecosystem in many oil layers. The microbes move very slowly, a few meters a year at most, through the layers.. $\endgroup$ – TechZen Jun 10 '16 at 20:21
  • $\begingroup$ bacteria just get killed at those pressures.. u.u $\endgroup$ – GameDeveloper Jun 13 '16 at 8:41
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @DarioOO -- Sorry but most oil fields are less than 2 miles deep with the vast majority far closer to the surface. Remember oil is mostly decayed plants and bodies of once surface dwelling creatures (dinosaurs). Pressures at 2 miles are less than 5000 psi (the average pressure gradient is .433 psi/ft). Bacteria and other far more advanced life forms thrive in the Mariana Trench under eight tons psi pressure. $\endgroup$ – O.M.Y. Jun 13 '16 at 13:31
  • $\begingroup$ @DarioOO Also, the point wasn't the bacteria. That was just building off one of the examples of "bad ways to do it" from OPs question. The point is that there isn't really a plan so dumb that some group of people that will try it if they think it will reach their goals without to much work. $\endgroup$ – AndyD273 Jun 13 '16 at 13:38
3
$\begingroup$

Nah, just buy the companies and stop production. That would be legal and ethical.

Of course, you'd also have to give up plastics and a whole bunch of other products.

So, even easier, why not just work towards a carbon tax? Or is that too hard because it requires getting people to agree, whereas unilateral action is easier to implement?

$\endgroup$
  • 8
    $\begingroup$ For a commodity as critical as oil, if the companies just voluntarily ceased production, I'd expect that government would order them to restart or be nationalized. $\endgroup$ – Nate Eldredge Jun 10 '16 at 19:17
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Alternatively, in a state of perfect competition, other competitors will simply rise up to take their place. $\endgroup$ – March Ho Jun 10 '16 at 23:59
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @MarchHo Oil is not a state of perfect competition. It would take decades to build and deploy the infrastructure required to get production back up to present levels. $\endgroup$ – David Richerby Jun 11 '16 at 10:56
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ This does not answer the question, it's a personal political opinion veiled in a thin layer of sarcasm. $\endgroup$ – pipe Jun 11 '16 at 13:43
3
$\begingroup$

Based on HopelessNoob's answer and the last bit of Cyrus's solution, genetically engineer oil-eating bacteria to produce an organogelating catalyst, then release them into the wild at an abandoned pump.

This will require the reservoir to not already be low-grade tar or shale oil of the kind that the US "environmentally friendly" politicians currently advocate using as an alternative to coal, as that already requires fracking and injecting caustic and toxic chemicals into the ground to get the gelled petroleum up, which similar procedures could be used here to counteract the bacterial threat. But it might convert a high-grade reservoir into low-grade that then requires fracking, given enough time.

(Fossil carbon naturally breaks down into low-grade bitumen and tar, which require heat and pressure beneath the earth to convert into high-grade oil that sits in reservoirs beneath mineral formation caps.)

"Economical" depends on oil supply. The closer they are to peak oil, the more attractive stuff like Bakken shale becomes. (It's a dirty little secret of the oil biz.) Are they at peak oil? How much oil is left? What is the demand like? If demand goes up with decreasing supply, it will be profitable for them to decontaminate the oil, like the US is currently paying Canada to do with its Tar Sands.

If a lot of oil is left, it will be uneconomical to contaminate it. A guy tried to do this with the world silver market in the 70s by buying up all the world's silver, and it did not work. (possibly inspired by Goldfinger...) it prompted a boom in silver production.

Coal is not as big a threat presumably because the burning of coal (on this world) does not release as many lobbyists into the environment as do gas and oil.

On another planet, they probably have a different energy economy, so this question is one of those "on a planet exactly like ours but..." solutions. Aliens in the movies always want our gold and oil, never coal or other stuff that humans find abundant and relatively worthless.

$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ Note, the bacteria would have to be anaerobic (nitrogen-fixing?) to avoid releasing more CO2 but the catalyst would do the real work. Also you'd probably have to use gene-drive technology to spread the gelating enzyme to wild bacterial relatives. $\endgroup$ – Ber Jun 11 '16 at 18:17
  • $\begingroup$ Basically you'd have to have the resources of a state. Such technologies might be useful in real life to make undersea methane-ice formations safe, however. Gene-drive technology exists now and is scarier than sci-fi. $\endgroup$ – Ber Jun 11 '16 at 18:20
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ What do you mean by coal does not release as many lobbyists into the environment as do gas and oil? $\endgroup$ – gerrit Jun 13 '16 at 10:07
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ "* Aliens in the movies always want our gold and oil, never coal or other stuff that humans find abundant and relatively worthless.*" -- except of course those aliens who want our relatively worthless population and water. $\endgroup$ – O.M.Y. Jun 13 '16 at 13:00
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ "Basically you'd have to have the resources of a state." So... a typical Bond villain? Sounds like a Goldfinger plot to me! $\endgroup$ – Luaan Jun 13 '16 at 13:32
3
$\begingroup$

Poising oil field is impossible. Many answer here focus on what to inject, but the problem is not what to inject but how to inject.

No, I am not talking about the military force you need to break the defense. Just assume the ecoterrorists have enough military force to take whatever action they want.

You are able to poison the ocean because there is ocean current so the poison is automatically mixed well and spread. Some less fatal poison can also be spread by ocean creatures when they intake the poison (e.g. breathing, eating or simply stick on their body) and move around the ocean.

The oil underground may flow, but at least not the part of oil we can touch. We just open a hole from ground and suck the oil up. Worst still, crude oil is viscous liquid that it is hard to mix with other material. Even if there is a poison and you are able to get large enough amount, oil company can remove that poison by sucking up a certain amount of poisoned oil and the newly sucked oil will be clean.

I think a more realistic way is to constantly attack the oil drill so that the cost of defending the drill is higher than the benefit of selling oil from that drill, but there is no way to do it once and for all.

$\endgroup$
2
$\begingroup$

How about VX? It was stockpiled by the US military for a while as an oily, long-lasting, area-denial chemical weapon. It also happens to be the most toxic substance ever synthesized. Your eco-terrorists wouldn't even necessarily need to get it in the ground. Just spread it around the well and it would be a nightmare to clean up. Should be significantly easier for your evil-doers to obtain or manufacture than radioactive materials.

$\endgroup$
1
$\begingroup$

Bacteria. Even random naturally occurring ones are a problem that petroleum engineers know well. They turn oil flowing freely through pores in rock into gels and goos that reduce or prevent flow.

Just think what a genetically engineered bacterium might do.

The most effective way to make sure both oil and coal stay underground would be to invent a better battery. Solar electricity is already cost competitive while the sun shines. Reduce the cost of storing it by an order of magnitude, and the oil age will be over within a few decades. "The stone age did not end because we ran out of stones". Who will burn oil or coal when electricity is universally cheaper?

$\endgroup$
1
$\begingroup$

Oil production is massively decentralized and as the price rises, it becomes economically viable in more and more places. New oil production is also often started in ecologically valuable areas; you don't want to encourage that. It's not the place to attack.

However, there are only 4300 oil tankers in the world, and a handful of main trunk oil pipelines. And there are only 700 refineries, which are big, expensive, and take a long time to build. If you took out 600 refineries, and then took out 100 of the first 200 replacements, you'd break the back of the energy industry and alternatives to oil would quickly become viable. (You'll need to do something about coal in parallel, but you asked about oil...)

Methods are pretty well described in other answers -- oil-gelling bacteria, radioactive contamination, standard industrial sabotage, plus things like nanobots, plastic- or steel-eating bacteria (that could cause widespread problems if it got loose), etc.

If I had to pay $500 three times a year to clean your bioengineered fungus out of my car's fuel system to keep it from stalling out, you'd better believe I'd buy an electric car, pronto. That's probably less fun to read about than poisoned oil wells, though.

$\endgroup$
0
$\begingroup$

Dump sand into the oil field. Easy to obtain, just start digging in any OPEC country where there isn't an oil field. Sand would make it incredibly hard to extract the oil without having to first move the sand. Only the most determined oil miners would get any use out of it.

Plus, sand is crazy easy to get. If you don't have sand, just use cat litter.

Could also use cement.

$\endgroup$
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ I don't think you understand how oil mining is done... oil reservoir isn't a huge cavern filled with oil, it's usually some sort of a permeable rock - more like a sponge filled with oil. Ever tried to stuff a sponge with sand? $\endgroup$ – Luaan Jun 13 '16 at 13:36
  • $\begingroup$ OPEC stands for the "Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries", therefor by definition "any OPEC country" must have oil fields. No sand for you! $\endgroup$ – O.M.Y. Jun 13 '16 at 13:45
0
$\begingroup$

As a lot of people have pointed out, poisoning or altering the make up of oil underground may not be the best option. Nuking the area or leaving vx gases or other poisons lying around, while limiting the ability to drill is not exactly eco-friendly. Remember, your terrorists like the green grass and air we breathe.

Can I suggest you create some kind of plastic and rubber eating bacteria/nanotechnology. This should restrict the ability to use, bring in more equipment to drill holes and suck out the blackgold. Think of all the pressure valves and small intricate electrical wires that would be involved in the measuring of pressures, and depth etc.

Such bacteria/technology should be designed with a short shelf life of say 10-20years (you can always release more later if need be). It should also have some distance limiting feature so as not to spread further than intended.

If it is airborne, this may cause problems. Maybe require large concentrations to work in concert, so if it gets dispersed through the wind it will not destroy peaceful settlements downwind. There is also the chance that it might be inhaled if it is airborne, so you definitely don't want it to affect organic flesh. Just thinking of plastic microbeads, such a device/bacteria could also build up inside the bodies of organisms it encounters and work it's way up the foodchain. So I really don't recommend it being airborne.

That leaves it having to move by contact. This would also limit the distance it could spread. It would make potential cleanup easier. Unfortunately for man, we have a tendency to use plastic and rubber in nearly all our clean up tech and protective clothing. So...catch 22 there!

$\endgroup$
0
$\begingroup$

Your ecoterrorists should morph into a lobbying firm. Some 70% of oil (in the US) is used for either gasoline or heating oil. These are the uses which result in burning, hence CO2 generation. The terrorists seem to be fixated on CO2, so let's help solve their problem. They should push for legislation which forces cars to be electric. They should encourage hard carbon sequestration -- otherwise known as plastic.

They can still be naughty terrorists, because they'll use bribes and threats to get their agenda across. Everyone has fun.

$\endgroup$
0
$\begingroup$

Blow up oil rigs.

Oil rigs are big, expensive and take time to build. Blowing them up technically wouldn't "poison the wells", but it might set back the production of sea oil. And you'll be able to trade a cheap bomb (and martyr) for a lot off cash and time for the oil companies.

If the terrorists are really evil, and good at it, you could go after the oil engineers as well, killing people with that skill set. Get the colleges too, while you are at it.

$\endgroup$

protected by Community Jun 16 '16 at 1:50

Thank you for your interest in this question. Because it has attracted low-quality or spam answers that had to be removed, posting an answer now requires 10 reputation on this site (the association bonus does not count).

Would you like to answer one of these unanswered questions instead?

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.