Dawn Pisturino's Blog

My Writing Journey

Hollywood Filmmaking Today

 Photo by Thea Hdc on Unsplash

      As Hollywood evolved from small production companies into large corporations, so did the financing of motion pictures.  Large corporations could sell stock and borrow money from well-heeled investors.  But this depended on the reliability of the investment.  Investor fears of risky ventures forced Hollywood corporations to incorporate traditional business practices: “efficient management, timely production practices, and profitable results” (Lewis 477).  Hollywood developed standardized practices that still survive today.

       The Hollywood studios held a virtual monopoly over the production, distribution, and exhibition of motion pictures until 1948.  With the Paramount decision, this monopoly came to an end.  Suddenly, the studios lost much of the real estate they had used as collateral to borrow money.  Following the example of independent filmmakers, such as David O. Selznick, the studios replaced the studio system with the independent system (Lewis 477).

       Today, filmmakers have many options for obtaining financing.  “Money may come from the studio, the producer, the investment community, or (most probably) a combination of these” (Lewis 477).  Financing may be procured in stages as the production progresses.  Controlling costs is a major concern, especially when it is difficult to accurately predict them (Lewis 479).

       Under the studio system, the budget was based on direct and indirect costs.  “Direct costs included everything from art direction and cinematography to insurance.  Indirect costs, usually 20 percent of the direct costs, covered the studio’s overall contribution to ‘overhead’” (Lewis 479).  The independent system calculates costs according to a 30/70 configuration.

       Costs can become inflated by the use of union labor (Lewis 476), special effects technology, personnel with special expert skills, and the high salaries commanded by superstar actors, producers, and directors.  Sometimes, it is possible to negotiate contracts that reduce upfront costs and benefit all parties involved.

       Marketing, distributing, and exhibiting motion pictures depend on the product produced.  Exclusive and limited releases assess audiences’ initial response; key-city releases assess audience reaction on a second-run basis; and “wide and saturated releases on hundreds or thousands of screens in the major markets . . . [test audience reaction] as good reviews and word of mouth build public awareness and demand” (Lewis 482).  While studios have established methods for bringing their films to market, independents use various methods.  They can rent their films to a studio or producing organization with the means to market, distribute, and exhibit them (Lewis 482).

       Experts determine release dates, arrange tie-ins with toys, books, and other merchandise, decide screening locations, form contracts with DVD and streaming companies, work on advertising and publicity, and complete negotiations on domestic and foreign rights.  Others calculate rental and download costs, ticket prices, and length of runs (Lewis 482).  Movies are an expensive commodity!

       Today, Hollywood comprises a combination of a modernized studio system and independent production companies that may or may not be part of a studio company.  In total, this collection of Hollywood filmmakers grossed $10.9 billion in revenue in 2013 (Lewis 483).  As Hollywood continues to evolve, it will discover new avenues of financing and generating revenue.

Dawn Pisturino

Thomas Edison State University

January 23, 2018

Copyright 2018-2022 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

Works Cited

Barsam, Richard, and Dave Monahan. Looking at Movies, 5th ed. New York: Norton, 2016.

Lewis, Jon. American Cinema: A History. New York: Norton, 2008.

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How Hollywood Survived the Invention of Television

(1956 TV Guide featuring Lassie)

       Postwar social changes and technological advances in America profoundly influenced Hollywood filmmaking.  The invention of television produced direct competition.  Audience expectations demanded more complex characters and more mature themes.  Hollywood adapted by incorporating technology into filmmaking that would fascinate audiences and draw them back into the movie theaters.  Experiments in defying the Production Code led to the screening of more mature films and changes in the code.

       “By 1960 there were 50 million TV sets in homes across the United States, and lots of people were watching a lot of television: in 1960 the average daily viewing time for U.S. households with a TV set was over 5 hours a day” (Lewis 233).  Television was a new toy that people could enjoy, and it was free.  Families could gather around the TV set after dinner and enjoy watching it together.  The advertisements exposed viewers to new products.

       The Hollywood studios adapted by creating new business relationships with the television studios.  “Disney led the way, making a deal with the American Broadcasting Company (ABC) that included the production of a Disney TV show that aired weekly on the network” (Lewis 234).

       These synergies were so successful that multinational conglomerates began buying up Hollywood studios and formulating new ways to produce and distribute films.  For example, “Gulf and Western Industries bought Paramount in 1966” (Lewis 237).  Hollywood studios contracted with TV studios to run their movies as a second run.  Walt Disney negotiated a deal with ABC to create Disneyland, an amusement park.  These deals brought in much-needed revenue to the studios.

       The conglomerates abandoned production in favor of distribution.  They began using market research and tie-ins with books and other merchandise.  Technological gimmicks such as 3-D and widescreen were tried (Lewis 234).  But what finally brought audiences back to the movie theaters was the distribution of foreign-made films and defiance of the Production Code (Lewis 238-247).

       While American audiences enjoyed foreign-made films, these movies were produced by European standards and often came into conflict with the standards of the PCA.  Otto Preminger completed his controversial film The Moon is Blue, in 1953.  When United Artists submitted it to the PCA, it was rejected.  As a result, United Artists gave up its membership in the MPAA to avoid a fine (Lewis 239).

       Theater owners, however, were more than willing to screen an adult-themed film that did not have the PCA seal, and “The Moon is Blue grossed over $4 million in its initial release” (Lewis 239).  Preminger used the same strategy with his second movie, The Man with the Golden Arm.  As more and more controversial films were released, the PCA was forced to relax some of its codes.

       Jack Valenti, who was named the president of MPAA in 1966, agreed to an exception for the release of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?.  Warner Bros. labeled it For Mature Audiences and left it to the theater owners to decide whether to screen it or not.  Pretty soon, Welcome to Hard Times was released with the label NO PERSON UNDER 18 ADMITTED UNLESS ACCOMPANIED BY A PARENT (Lewis 244-245).   Finally, in 1968, the MPAA came up with a new voluntary rating system: G (General Audiences), M (Mature Audiences and parental discretion), R (Restricted and no one under age sixteen unless accompanied by a parent or adult guardian), and X (no one under sixteen admitted).  Films with an X rating could not receive a PCA seal (Lewis 283).

       The new rating system gave Hollywood the latitude to create a greater variety of films.  With social change rapidly advancing, the studios began targeting the youth audience and the social issues which were important to them (Lewis 285).  For a short time, studios began promoting “topical movies with a political edge” (Lewis 286) produced by new, young directors (auteurs) who could tap into young audiences’ interests.  The most famous and most profitable movie produced was The Godfather in 1972, directed by Francis Ford Coppola.  But as iconic as many of these films are today, studios wanted more formulaic films whose success could be easily reproduced, and the “auteur renaissance” (Lewis 282) ended.  Action blockbusters formed the new wave of Hollywood films by the 1980s.

       Hollywood has been resilient over the decades and found ways to adapt to new technologies, changes in audience interests, and restrictions placed on them by the Supreme Court.  Always alert to new avenues of revenue, Hollywood has survived by its willingness to negotiate new (and more profitable) deals.

Dawn Pisturino

Thomas Edison State University

January 17, 2018

Copyright 2018-2022 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

Works Cited

Lewis, Jon. American Cinema: A History. New York: Norton, 2008.

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Following the Zombies

(Scene from Shaun of the Dead)

Yesterday, I followed the zombies around in Walmart. They were silent, shuffling along more slowly than usual, their shopping carts creaking between the narrow aisles. Their faces never changed. They just poked along, crouched over their carts with bent shoulders, looking at the same old products with dead eyes. I impatiently followed behind them and finally got stuck in the pain aisle between several carts. This is always the most popular aisle in the store. The next most popular aisle is the laxative aisle. It took several minutes before I could quietly maneuver my cart around the cluster of walking dead. Once I extricated myself, I headed for the checkout stand and got the hell out of there. I survived another trip through Walmart, unscathed. Next time, I might not be so lucky.

Dawn Pisturino

January 28, 2022

Copyright 2022 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

NOTE: No offense intended to real zombies.

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History of Chevron Corporation

(Standard Oil Company of California gas station)

       In September 1876, oil driller Alex Mentry struck oil at Pico No. 4 in Pico Canyon, California.  This set off a new “gold rush” in search of oil, the “black gold.”  At the time, Mentry worked for California Star Oil.  A few years later, on September 10, 1879, Pacific Coast Oil Company, which had incorporated in San Francisco, California on February 19, 1879, acquired California Star Oil – and this is where the history of Chevron begins (Chevron, 2020).

       Pacific Coast built the largest refinery in California at Point Alameda on San Francisco Bay, with the capacity to produce 600 barrels a day.  The company built a pipeline from Pico Canyon to the Southern Pacific Railroad train station at Elayon in southern California. By 1895, they had acquired the first steel tanker in California, the George Loomis, which could hold 6,500 barrels of crude oil (Chevron, 2020).

       In 1878, competition appeared in the form of Standard Oil Company (Iowa).  Known for its marketing skills, quality products, effective advertising campaigns, and rich financial backing, it set up shop in San Francisco, California with the goal of dominating the West Coast’s oil market.  By 1885, Standard Oil had distribution centers throughout the West Coast.  By contrast, Pacific Coast Oil Company was struggling to survive. Finally, in 1900, Standard Oil purchased the struggling company in order to increase its own production, transportation, and refining operations. In 1906, consolidation between Pacific Coast Oil and Standard Oil (Iowa) produced a new company – Standard Oil of California (Chevron, 2020).

       In 1911, Standard Oil of California established the California Natural Gas Company at its El Segundo plant in southern California in order to explore for natural gas in the San Joaquin Valley.  A second pipeline was built, linking the Richmond refinery, which was built in 1902, and the Kern River Field (Chevron, 2020).

       In an effort to conserve energy resources, the Starke gas trap – invented by engineer C.C. Scharpenberg and geologist Eric Starke — was invented and implemented for capturing natural gas from a well (Chevron, 2020).

       Between 1912 and 1919, Standard Oil of California expanded its operations until it saturated the market in a five-state area.  “Petroleum and natural gas are by far the major fuels used on the Pacific Coast” (Miller, 1936, p. 86).  But its market share had dropped by 1926 due to increased competition.  With the re-opening of the Panama Canal in 1914, Standard Oil of California ventured into the international market and expanded its market share in the Eastern United States and Europe (Chevron, 2020).  Natural gas use, however, continued to grow, from 72,000 cubic feet consumed on the West Coast in 1921 to 258,000 cubic feet consumed in 1933 (Miller, 1936, p. 86).

       Standard Oil of California continued to expand its operations through subsidiaries, mergers, and partnerships.  It opened operations in the Middle East, Canada, Mexico, and Central America.  In September 1950, the company completed the Trans-Arabian Pipeline.  Company revenues reached 1 billion dollars in 1951.  A merger with Standard Oil of Kentucky in 1961 expanded its markets in five southeastern states.  In 1977, Chevron USA was formed with the merger of six domestic oil and gas operations.  In 1979, Chevron celebrated 100 years of operations (Chevron, 2020).

       In March 1984, Chevron merged with Gulf Oil Corporation.  This merger increased their reserves of oil, gas, and natural gas liquids.  In the 1990s, Chevron developed the Escruvos

Natural Gas project in Nigeria, converting natural gas to liquids.  In 1996, “Chevron transferred its natural gas gathering, operating, and marketing operation to NGC Corporation (later Dynergy) in exchange for a roughly 25% equity stake in NGC” (Chevron, 2020). Through its merger with Texaco, Chevron acquired 11 million oil-equivalents of natural gas reserves.  Using 3-D imaging signals, Chevron discovered one of the largest crude oil and natural gas fields in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico in May 2009.  In 2005, Chevron changed its name to Chevron Corporation, acquired Unocal, and increased its natural gas reserves by 15 per cent.  The Gorgon Project and Wheatstone Project in Western Australia are boosting Chevron’s liquefied natural gas reserves. Gorgon, which will supply the Asia-Pacific market, had a daily production of 2.3 billion cubic feet of natural gas and 6,000 barrels of condensate in 2019.  Production is projected to last 40 or more years, with 15.6 million metric tons of liquefied natural gas produced per year (Chevron, 2020).

       “Chevron’s development of oil and natural gas from shale and tight rock formations has intensified since the company entered the Marcellus Shale through its acquisition of Atlas Energy in 2011” (Chevron, 2020).  The company’s policy of partnerships, mergers, and acquisitions has paid off handsomely for its bottom line and future success.

       Likewise, experts say that energy demand could increase by 33% by the year 2040, making all sources of energy important: natural gas, crude oil, coal, renewables, and nuclear (Chevron, 2020).  California alone “produced more than 200 million cubic feet of natural gas in 2017 used for heating and cooking in homes and businesses and to generate electricity” (Powering California, 2019).  Chevron has expanded into geothermal, solar, wind, biofuel, fuel cells, and hydrogen energy.  It recently invested in Carbon Clean Solutions, a company which is developing technology that “removes carbon dioxide at a price of $30.00 per ton” (Houston Chronicle, 2020.)  The prototype is expected to come out in 2021.

       The demand for natural gas and liquefied natural gas has intensified as companies and consumers look for cleaner, cheaper sources of energy.  Liquefied natural gas (LNG) can be easily shipped and stored because cooling the gas at temperatures of -260 degrees Fahrenheit shrinks the gas into 600 times smaller its normal volume.  LNG can be re-gasified and transmitted through natural gas pipelines to power plants fueled by natural gas, as well as industrial, residential and commercial consumers.  Markets for both natural gas and LNG have increased in the U.S. since 2007, and Asian countries are demanding more imported product (U.S. Energy Information Administration, 2020).  Chevron Shipping Company has a large fleet of crude oil tankers and LNG carriers to meet this demand (Chevron, 2020).

       Chevron has crude oil and natural gas fields in Colorado, New Mexico, and Texas. In 2018, they produced 651 million cubic feet of natural gas and 77,000 barrels of natural gas liquids (NGL).  In 2018, Chevron’s holdings in the Gulf of Mexico produced 105 million cubic feet of natural gas and 13,000 barrels of NGLs. Its Jack and St. Malo fields produced 139,000 barrels of liquids and 21 million cubic feet of natural gas. Its Big Foot Project produced 25 million cubic feet of natural gas per day. Its Tahiti field in the Gulf produced 22 million cubic feet of natural gas and 3,000 barrels of NGLs.  Its Mad Dog Field yielded 8,000 barrels of liquids and 1 million cubic feet of natural gas.  The Stampede Field produced 4 million cubic feet of natural gas. In California, 25 million cubic feet of natural gas and 400 barrels of NGLs were produced.  In the Appalachian Basin, 240 million cubic feet of natural gas, 4,000 barrels of NGLs, and 1,000 barrels of condensate were produced (Chevron, 2020).

       “The Chevron Pipe Line Company transports crude oil, refined petroleum products, liquefied petroleum (LPG), natural gas, NGLs, and chemicals within the U.S.” (Chevron, 2020).  It manages pipelines for Chevron Phillips Chemical and has financial interests in other U.S. and international pipelines.  Chevron Power and Energy Management Company handles gas-fired and renewable energy power generation.  Cogeneration facilities fueled by natural gas produce electricity and steam and re-use recovered waste heat to optimize oil operations.  Chevron’s Supply and Trading branches in Houston, Texas, London, Singapore, and San Ramon, California provide support for crude oil and natural gas production operations, refining, and marketing. Approximately 5 million barrels of liquids and 5 billion cubic feet of natural gas are traded on the commodities exchange every day.  Chevron’s Gas Supply and Trading group “markets and manages transportation for Chevron’s equity natural gas production.  It also manages all LPG and NGL trading, including supplying refineries and marketing NGLs produced by Chevron’s refineries and Upstream assets” (Chevron, 2020).

       In order to ensure a qualified work force for the future, Chevron invests in education to teach high school students science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).  Geologists, chemists, IT specialists, healthcare workers, engineers, and other specialists working for Chevron must be experienced professionals in their fields.  They actively encourage girls to become proficient in STEM.  And they support programs to help low-income men and women get the skills they need to get high-paying jobs in the global energy industry (Chevron, 2020).

       More than 100 years later, Chevron is exploring, researching, developing, and utilizing new technologies in order to meet increasing demands for energy.  It continues to be a leader in the global energy industry.

Dawn Pisturino

Thomas Edison State University

December 16, 2020

Copyright 2020-2022 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

References

Chevron. (2020). History: see where we’ve been and where we’re going. Retrieved from

https://www.chevron.com.

Chevron. (2020). Operations: driving human progress. Retrieved from

https://www.chevron.com.

Chevron. (2020). Project portfolio: delivering energy worldwide. Retrieved from

https://www.chevron.com.

Houston Chronicle. (2020). Chevron invests in carbon capture technology company. Retrieved

       from https://www.houstonchronicle.com/business/energy/article/Chevron-invests-in-carbon-

       capture-technology-15063229.php.

Miller, W. (1936). Pacific Coast Oil and Natural Gas. Economic Geography, 12 (1), 86-90.

       doi: 10.2307/140266.

Powering California. (2019). The history of oil and natural gas in california. Retrieved from

https://www.poweringcalifornia.com/the-history-of-oil-and-natural-gas-in-california-2/

U.S. Energy Information Administration. (2020). Natural gas explained. Retrieved from

https://www.eia.gov/energyexplained/natural-gas.

6 Comments »

Evolution of Natural Gas in America

The natural gas industry is so vital to the functioning and prosperity of the United States that a depletion of natural gas resources would cripple the whole country.  Roughly 25% of the energy used in the United States comes from natural gas.  From manufacturing uses to home energy consumption, natural gas plays an important role in everyday life, even if American consumers are unaware of it (Busby, 1999, p. xviii).

       Natural gas is a natural resource that has developed over millions of years of plant and animal decomposition.  It is often found at the bottom of bodies of water that have existed for eons, such as oceans and lakes.  Plant and animal matter that became buried before decomposition or became lodged in anaerobic water, such as a stagnant pond, avoided oxidation.  As sand, mud, and other materials collected on top of the organic matter over long periods of time, these materials solidified into rock.  The organic matter was preserved by the rock. Years and years of pressure and heat turned the organic matter into gas and oil.  “Coal, shale, and some limestones have a dark color that comes from their rich organic content.  Many sedimentary basins are gas-prone and produce primarily natural gas” (Busby, 1999, p. 2-3).

       The average composition of natural gas, after processing, is 88% methane, 5% ethane, 2% propane, and 1% butane (Busby, 1999, p. 2).  The natural gas widely used today is, therefore, largely methane, “a colorless, odorless gas that burns readily with a pale, slightly luminous flame (Busby, 1999, p. 1).  The by-products of burning natural gas are mostly water vapor and carbon dioxide, making it “the cleanest burning fossil fuel” (Busby, 1999, p. 1).

       Methane is used in making solvents and other chemical compositions.  Propane and butane are separated from natural gas and sold as separate fuels. Liquified petroleum gas (LPG) is mostly propane and used as a fuel in rural areas where pipelines do not exist.  When carbon dioxide and helium are recovered from natural gas, they are often used to boost production in old oil fields.  Helium that is recovered from natural gas is used to fill balloons and blimps.  It is also widely used in the electronics industry.  Hydrogen sulfide, which is very corrosive, must be removed from natural gas before it is transmitted through pipelines or it will damage vital parts of gas wells and pipes (Busby, 1999, p. 1-2).

       Wood that has been subjected to high temperatures over time, turns into coal.  Coal seam gas is primarily methane. At depths with cooler temperatures, bacteria produce microbial gas, which is largely methane. Thermogenic gas develops at lower depths and with temperatures greater than 300 degrees Fahrenheit.  Trapped in underground reservoirs, high temperatures sometimes “gasify” the heavier hydrocarbons.  When the temperature cools, the gas re-liquifies and forms a condensate, which is largely pure gasoline. This is known as “wet” gas.  “Dry” gas is composed of pure methane.  Natural gas liquids (NGL) are composed of butane, propane, ethane, and gasoline condensate.  At depths greater than 18,000 feet, high temperatures turn oil into natural gas and graphite (Busby, 1999, p. 3-4).

       “Most deep wells are drilled in search of natural gas . . . [because] most gas that has been generated over the ages has been lost rather than trapped, which is why many exploratory wells are unproductive” (Busby, 1999, p. 3-4).  The reservoir rock holding the gas must be porous as well as permeable to allow for containment and access.

       Although people in the past were aware of natural gas, it was not until the 1800s that gas began to be developed and used for various purposes.  Coal gas began to be utilized in gas lighting in America and Europe, which allowed factories and businesses to operate for longer hours and families to engage in more social activities in the evenings (Busby, 1999, p. 5-6).

       One of the first inventors to experiment with coal gas was William Murdoch.  His experiments were so successful that his employer, Boulton & Watt, expanded its business to include “installing gas lighting in English factories” (Busby, 1999, p. 6).  The city of Birmingham adopted gas lighting, which inspired great demand for this new technology (Busby, 1999, p. 6).

       One of the first gas lights, the Thermolamp, was invented by Philippe Leon in France in 1799.  He patented a process to generate gas from wood and put it on display in Paris in 1802.  But the French government rejected the idea of a massive lighting system fueled by gas (Busby, 1999, p. 6).

       In 1807, Frederick Winsor “staged the first gas street-lighting display in London” (Busby, 1999, p. 6).  He had found a way to pipe large quantities of gas via a centralized system and founded his own public gas distribution company in 1812 (Busby, 1999, p. 6).

       By 1819, London had installed approximately 300 miles of gas pipes that supplied more than 50,000 gas burners.  The pipes were made of wood, but these were eventually replaced by metal pipes (Busby, 1999, p. 6).                                                                                                                                        

       In America, Charles Peale began testing gas lighting in Philadelphia in 1802.  The city of Baltimore hired his son, Rembrandt Peale, to install a gas lighting system in 1816.  The first gas utility company in America was born in that year, and more sprouted up along the East coast.  The first gas company in the southern states was established in New Orleans (Busby, 1999, p. 6).

       America could boast around a thousand companies selling coal gas for lighting by the end of the 19th century.  And most major cities around the world had adopted gas lighting (Busby, 1999, p. 6).

       Most consumer gas distribution was not metered but delivered at a flat rate, which was based on the number of hours of use and the number of lights in a household or business.  A gas meter was invented in 1815.  By 1862, gas meters – which monitor the volume of gas used – were being used in London.  Coin-operated meters became available in the 1890s which allowed poorer consumers to utilize gas energy as they could afford it (Busby, 1999, p. 7).

       “Coke is a solid, porous by-product of gas manufacturing that can also be used for domestic heating” (Busby, 1999, p. 8).  The evolution of the iron and steel industries created a demand for blast-furnace coke that led to the development of the push-through-coke oven.  The demand for coke oven gas increased until it “constituted 18.7% of all manufactured gas” (Busby, 1999, p. 8) in 1920.

       As new uses for gas were discovered, developed, and implemented, “the first gas range in the U.S. was built around 1840” (Busby, 1999, p. 8).  The Goodwin Company introduced the Sun Dial Stove in 1879.  Two more gas stove manufacturers opened within four years.  And in 1887, the first gas appliance store opened in Providence, Rhode Island.  By 1900, cooking with gas had outstripped gas lighting and gas heating (Busby, 1999, p. 8).                                                                                                            

       Using gas to heat water storage tanks became popular in the 1860s.  The year 1883 saw the first circulating water heater come onto the market.  A water heater with a thermostat was introduced a few years later. Gas distribution was fast becoming a household necessity (Busby, 1999, p. 9).

       Natural gas was frequently discovered in the 1800s when people drilled for water, but the gas was ignored.  It was not until 1821 that William Hart drilled the first natural gas well and piped it through wooden pipes to neighbors’ homes.  This same gas was used to light up the City of Fredonia, New York a few years later (Busby, 1999, p. 9).

       Gas wells were drilled in Pennsylvania, New York, and West Virginia throughout the 1830s and 1840s.  But gas pipes were still primitive and only able to transport gas to customers near the gas wells (Busby, 1999, p. 10).

       The first natural gas company opened in Fredonia, New York in 1865.  When oil was discovered in Titusville, Pennsylvania, an oil rush ensued that diminished the importance of natural gas.  “Gas produced along with oil was usually just burned off, or flared” (Busby, 1999, p. 10).

       Andrew Carnegie, the famous steel magnate, documented in 1885 that 10,000 tons of coal had been replaced by natural gas.  But as the supply of natural gas became depleted, steel makers were forced to revert to using coal again by 1900.  This pattern repeated itself for the next 25 years.  Wastefulness and leakage were the main culprits (Busby, 1999, p. 10).

       The first long-distance wooden pipeline was built between West Bloomfield and Rochester, New York in the 1870s when a large reservoir of natural gas was discovered in West Bloomfield.  The gas was transported through this 25-mile pipeline (Busby, 1999, p. 10).

       Indiana Gas and Oil Company laid a 120-mile parallel pipeline made of wrought iron in 1891 that used high pressure (525 psi) to transmit natural gas to Chicago from the gas field in Indiana.  The company started using manufactured gas when the natural gas supply ran out in 1907 (Busby, 1999, p. 10-11).

       Oxyacetylene welding was invented in 1911 which sped up development of seamless steel pipe in the 1920s.  Natural gas could now be transmitted at higher pressures and in larger quantities and to longer distances, which boosted profitability for natural gas companies and helped them compete with other fuels.  The natural gas industry continued to expand until the Great Depression, which slowed down economic activity across the country.  As soon as World War II was over and the economic climate improved, the industry began to boom again (Busby, 1999, p. 11-12).

       Natural gas is one of the main fuels used in the food processing industry in the United States.  Large boilers are used to create process steam, which is used in “pasteurization, sterilization, canning, cooking, drying, packaging, equipment clean-up, and other processes” (Busby, 1999, p. 87). Natural gas energy saves companies money when they install “high-efficiency, low-emission natural gas-fired boilers” (Busby, 1999, p. 87). 

       Large amounts of hot water are also needed for “cleaning, blanching, bleaching, soaking, and sterilization” (Busby, 1999, p. 87).  High-efficiency industrial water heaters are used routinely in food processing.  Gas appliances are also used for “drying, cooking, and baking, as well as for refrigeration, freezing, and dehumidification” (Busby, 1999, p. 87).

       Tyson Foods has made a commitment to reduce energy use and produce fewer emissions that puts them at the top of the food processing industry.  As of 2019, they were using 42.15%

non-renewable fuels (including natural gas), 15.72% electricity, and 0.45% renewable energy (wind and solar power).  They are using renewable fuels like biogas from their waste treatment plants in their plant boilers in order to reduce their natural gas use.  They used about 666 million cubic feet of biogas in their boilers in 2019.  Although their energy use went up in 2019, their emissions went down.  The company is reusing process water in their plants to reduce water use.  And it is considering natural gas, electrification, and hydrogen fuel for their transportation fleet (Tyson Sustainability, 2019).

       “Natural gas . . . is the cleanest burning fossil fuel, and emits very few pollutants into the atmosphere” (Natural Gas, 2013).  Although Tyson is already using natural gas in its plants, it might want to consider using natural gas to generate its own electricity in order to free itself from dependency on local electric companies.  This could save them money in the long run, especially as electricity rates go up and electricity delivery reliability goes down.  This, however, would require a large capital investment that Tyson might not want to make (Natural Gas, 2013).

       But Tyson is already using boilers that produce steam, and this steam could be used to generate electricity.  If the boiler keeps running, “the steam can be diverted to a turbine for generating power” (Busby, 1999, p. 87-88).  This is called cogeneration because “waste heat is recovered and used” (Busby, 1999, p. 87).

       Although most power plants have been fueled by coal, there has been a push towards using natural gas because this reduces emissions of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, soot, and smoke (Busby, 1999, p. 88).  “Natural gas can be used to produce electricity either directly, in a gas-powered turbine, or indirectly, in a steam-powered turbine (using steam from a gas-fired boiler)” (Busby, 1999, p. 89).  The natural gas also serves to increase boiler efficiency.

       Natural gas demand is expected to increase in the future as consumers expect energy efficiency regulations to reduce emissions in the atmosphere and industries are pressured to use low-carbon fuels.  Natural gas is a clean, reliable, and efficient energy source that can be used with confidence in the residential, commercial, and industrial settings.

Dawn Pisturino

Thomas Edison State University

October 14, 2020

Copyright 2020-2022 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

References

Busby, R.L. (Ed.). (1999). Natural Gas in Nontechnical Language. Tulsa, OK: PennWell.

Natural Gas. (2013). Natural gas and the environment. Retrieved from

       http://www.naturalgas.org

Tyson Sustainability. (2019). 2019 sustainability report. Retrieved from 

https://www.tysonsustainability.com/environment/energy-emissions.

.

15 Comments »

The List – A Short Story

“If I could get away with it, I’d fire you. But there’s nobody to take your place.”

Henry looks at his boss in dull silence then gives a short laugh.

“Don’t laugh, Henry, I’m dead serious. Johnson over there is the only one who does any real work around here.”

Henry stares at Johnson, who is busy directing the arrangement of blackjack tables in the Pit. A small flame of resentment ignites in his gut.

So all my work is for nothing.

Henry recalls all the extra hours he has worked over the last two weeks, even sacrificing his days off, to take care of all the little details involved in setting up a blackjack tournament. He has barely slept at night because all the annoying little details keep tap dancing around in his head. As a result, his migraines have returned with a vengeance, and his wife nags him for not taking a day off.

“There’s nobody else on day shift who can do it,” Henry wearily explains.

The phone rings early in the morning, waking Henry from a troubled sleep. The phone rings late at night, preventing him from getting to bed. Johnson, the evening Pit Boss, and Girard, the graveyard Pit Boss, are always calling him for advice or direction. Henry takes his job as day shift Pit Boss seriously and gives them good, solid answers.

As he watches Johnson waving his arms and barking orders, Henry feels himself slowly deflating like a worn out tire. He sinks down into his chair. The awful words cling to him like plastic wrap, suffocating him into silence. He has a wife and five children to support. He needs the medical insurance.

When his boss leaves, Henry’s wife Lottie gets an earful over the telephone.

“Why do you let him do this to you? Why don’t you stick up for yourself?” Her words are an accusation fired through the phone line.

“What good would it do,” Henry says. “He would probably just fire me.”

“At least, if the bastard fires you, he has to give you severance pay and unemployment. Why are you such a wimp, Henry? I feel like calling up that little twerp and giving him a piece of my mind.”

“Don’t do that,” Henry pleads. “It would just make things worse.”

“Then grow a backbone, for Christ’s sake! Why I ever married you, I just don’t know.”

I wonder, Henry thinks to himself. But he says out loud: “What I really wanna do is look that jerk right in the eye and say, ‘I quit! You can find someone else to run your stupid old tournament!'”

“You can’t do that!” Lottie sputters. “You have a wife and five children to support! We need the medical insurance.”

But Henry wonders: could I really do it?

* * *

On Monday morning, the Big Honcho arrives from Las Vegas.

“We need to cut back on personnel,” he orders. “I want nine dealers fired from the Pit. And don’t worry about the legalities. We have a team of lawyers who will handle all of that.”

Henry is upset. He knows that the corporation made a healthy profit last year. He sees no reason to fire anybody. The dealers on his shift have been loyal employees. He does not want to choose which innocents will be sacrificed on the altar of corporate greed. He demurs. But the Big Honcho, pounding the desk for emphasis, pressures him to choose four day shift dealers to fire.

“I don’t know what to do,” Henry complains to his wife. “There’s nobody on my shift who deserves to be fired.”

“You can’t just fire somebody without a good reason. You need documentation to back it up. Did you talk to someone in Human Resources?”

“He specifically told us not to go to Human Resources. He says they have lawyers who will handle everything.”

“Sounds fishy to me. They’re trying to pull a fast one, Henry.”

“I know that! But if I don’t do what he says, he’ll fire me. He’ll get me for insubordination.”

“Well then, do what he says. Don’t you have any employees who are always calling in sick or punching in late? Don’t you have any new people on probation?”

“What he really wants,” Henry confides, “is to get rid of all the old people and the ugly women. He wants to hire skinny young girls with big breasts like they have in Las Vegas.”

“But that’s discrimination! He can’t do that!”

“He thinks he can. He doesn’t like anybody over the age of thirty. He only wants pretty young girls who won’t object to wearing skimpy outfits and working long hours for low pay.”

“Where’s he going to find that around here? Good workers are hard to find. This isn’t Las Vegas.”

“I know that, and you know that, but he doesn’t understand.”

“Go through your list of personnel and choose the ones with the most points against them.”

“I have, but none of them really have any points currently against them. I have good people on my shift, and most of them have been here for years. There’s no reason to fire them.”

“Explore your options. Is business slow right now? Can you cut back on hours? That would help cut labor costs without having to fire anybody. The people who can’t afford it will look for another job.”

Henry considers the idea. “You know, I think that might work. I’ll take another look at the schedule.”

***

“What’s going on, Henry? Are some of us gonna be laid off?” Margie Benson looks at him with a Big Question Mark in her heavily-shadowed dark eyes. Henry forces himself to smile. He has been instructed by his boss to say nothing about future lay-offs.

“Everything’s okay,” Henry says. “Don’t worry.” But Henry is aware that Margie is a single  mother with two young children and plenty to worry about. He has just added her name to his list of potential lay-offs because a customer filed a written complaint against her five years ago. It was all he could find in her personnel file.

“If you say it,” Margie says, “I’ll believe it. You wouldn’t lie.”

I would if the stakes were high enough.

“Margie, just try to be flexible and plan ahead, just in case things change in the future, okay?” Henry looks at her long and hard, and he knows that she understands the hidden message behind his words.

“Thanks, Henry,” she says quietly. “You’re a good man.”

Henry turns away, feeling sick to his stomach. For the rest of the day, he is haunted by the look on Margie’s face.

***

The Big Honcho calls from Las Vegas.

“This list is no good,” he shouts into the phone. “You’re being too soft on these people. Our lawyers say there are at least twenty people on that personnel list who can be fired!”

“Where are they?” Henry says, feeling his hackles rise. “I’ve gone over that list again and again. I’ve researched the personnel files. Those four people are the only ones who even remotely qualify.”

“Go over that list again! If our lawyers can spot them, so can you!”

“I’m not a lawyer,” Henry shouts back. “I’ve never had to do this before.”

“You’re supposed to do what I want!” the Big Honcho screams.

“Fuck,” Henry says under his breath.

“What did you say to me? Did you say what I think you said?”

“Yeah, I said exactly what you think I said,” Henry says proudly.

“You haven’t heard the last of this,” the Big Honcho says. “Get me that list!” And hangs up the phone.

Henry’s heart is pounding in his chest, and his hands are clammy and cold. He wipes the sweat from his forehead with an old wad of tissue he finds in his pocket. He picks up the personnel list lying on his desk and tears it in two. Then he tosses the pieces into the waste basket.

***

Henry has submitted five versions of the personnel hit list to the Big Honcho in Las Vegas. The Big Honcho has found reasons to reject all five. Henry calls him with version number six.

“Thank you,” the Big Honcho says gruffly. “And Henry — I haven’t forgotten what you said to me.”

Henry does not respond. He hangs up the phone, struggling to keep his composure.

Late in the afternoon, the Big Honcho calls back. “This list is no good. We don’t have enough documentation to fire these people.”

Henry explodes. “You said not to worry about that! You said you had a team of lawyers who would take care of the legalities!”

“Stop shouting at me.”

“I’m going to shout at you! I told you we didn’t have enough documentation to fire these people! I told you it couldn’t be done!”

“As a matter of fact, we’ve decided to put the whole thing on hold until after the blackjack tournament.”

“Good!” Henry shouts. “That’s the smartest thing you’ve said to me yet!” He slams down the receiver, not caring anymore what the Big Honcho thinks.

***

“We had considered you for the position, Henry, but your attitude just doesn’t fit in with our corporate goals.”

Henry’s boss frowns, shaking his head disapprovingly. “We’ve appointed Johnson Top Dog, and everybody — including you — will now answer to him. Johnson, in turn, will answer to the Big Honcho in Las Vegas. I hope you’re happy, Henry. If it were up to me, I’d fire your sorry ass.”

In his mind, Henry hears his wife yelling at him. “What do you mean, you didn’t get the promotion! Don’t you care about your family? Henry, we need that extra money!”

He begins to laugh.

“Don’t laugh, Henry, I’m dead serious.”

“I know you are. And you know what? I — don’t — care!”

The look of shock on his boss’ thin, colorless face turns to horror as Henry pulls a small pistol from his pocket and points it squarely at the spot between his boss’ terrified eyes.

“Now, now, Henry, no need to go postal on me.”

Henry continues to laugh as he swings the gun around and points it at his own throbbing temple. His head disappears in a cloud of smoke.

***

When Henry’s boss calls the Big Honcho in Las Vegas to deliver the news, he hears a satisfied grunt on the other end of the telephone.

“Good! Henry Jenkins was at the top of my list.”

Dawn Pisturino

January 12, 2022

Copyright 2011-2022 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

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The Basics of Gas Exploration, Production, and Distribution

Offshore natural gas drilling

The Basics of Gas Exploration, Production, and Distribution

Gas and oil traps are formed by geological events such as tectonic plate shifting, glacier movement, and extreme temperature changes. As long as the gas cannot escape from the area, it will be trapped in place (Blewett, 2010).

When reservoir rock is subjected to high pressure and other conditions, it can become fractured or deformed, creating a space that can fill up with oil or natural gas. Anticlines are structural traps which occur when layers of rock are pushed upward, causing an arch. Synclines occur when the rock is pushed downward. Domes are similar to anticlines but have a more rounded appearance (Busby, 1999).

Faults occur when rocks crack due to outside forces and sections, or plates, slide out of alignment. Sections of rock can slide upward (dip-slip) or sideways (strike-slip). Thrust faults appear on the earth’s surface as mountain ranges. Fractures can divide traps into smaller compartments and increase the permeability of sedimentary rocks. Shales and chalks are normally porous and impermeable. When fracturing occurs, it can make these rocks more permeable, making it possible for gas to get trapped inside the rocks (Busby, 1999).

Stratigraphic traps are harder to access than structural traps because the gas and oil have been trapped within the layers of rock. These traps form as the result of changes in the porosity and permeability of the rock due to the way in which sediment has been deposited. Gas cannot escape the rock. Large fields of gas and oil can be trapped in this way (Busby, 1999).

Combination traps have the characteristics of both structural and stratigraphic traps. A salt dome occurs when a large quantity of salt gets trapped in sedimentary layers and breaks through the earth’s surface, forming “a plug-like structure” (Busby, 1999).

Carbonate rock reservoirs formed when ancient caves collapsed, causing fractures in the rocks. A new cave system was created, forming a reservoir for gas and oil to be trapped inside (Busby, 1999).

In order for any oil or gas field to be productive, there must exist the right combination of “reservoir rock, trap, and cap rock or other seal” (Busby, 1999). There must be “source rock that has generated gas or oil, reservoir rock to hold the gas, a trap to seal it off, and the right timing” (Busby, 1999). Without a trap in place, the gas will disperse out of the area (Busby, 1999).

The largest producing gas fields in the United States are as follows:

Marcellus Shale is an unconventional shale formation which stretches beneath two-thirds of Pennsylvania and parts of New York, Ohio, West Virginia, Maryland, Kentucky, and Virginia. This area is estimated to hold 6 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.  The most productive wells lie 5,000 to 8,500 feet below the earth’s surface (Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, 2020).

This natural gas can only be accessed through vertical and horizontal drilling and the use of hydraulic fracturing (fracking). The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection inspects and monitors these wells “from construction to reclamation to ensure that the site has proper erosion controls in place, and that any waste generated in drilling and completing the well was properly handled and disposed. Also, unconventional well operators are required to submit a variety of reports regarding well drilling, completion, production, waste disposal, and well plugging” (Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, 2020).

The Newark East gas field in Texas is composed of Barnett Shale. Currently, 5,600 wells and 150 rigs are in operation. The field is estimated to hold 1,951 billion cubic feet of natural gas (Geo ExPro, 2007; Oil Price, 2015).

The B-43 Area in Arkansas is estimated to hold 1,025 billion cubic feet of natural gas, but not much other information was available (Oil Price, 2015).

The San Juan Basin is found in Colorado and New Mexico. It is estimated that the field holds 1,024 billion cubic feet of natural gas. Not much other information was available (Oil Price, 2015).

The Haynesville/Bossier Shale formation is located in eastern Texas and western Louisiana. The natural gas is found at depths greater than 10,000 feet below the earth’s surface. The area is producing 2,680 million cubic feet per day of natural gas and 420 barrels per day of condensate (Railroad Commission, 2020).

The Pinedale gas field in Wyoming is the sixth largest gas field in the United States. It covers 70 square miles. Its layers of sandstone are 6,000 feet thick and form a 30-mile anticline. Operators use horizontal drilling to access the natural gas. In 2015, it produced 4 million barrels of gas condensate and 436 billion cubic feet of natural gas. Its gas reserves hold 40 trillion cubic feet of natural gas—enough to provide energy to the entire country for 22 months (American GeoSciences, 2018).

The Carthage natural gas field near Carthage, Texas produced 13,912,377 million cubic feet of natural gas in June 2020. Not much other information was available (Texas Drilling, 2020).

The Jonah field is located south of Pinedale, Wyoming. It covers 21,000 acres and is estimated to hold 10.5 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. Chevron is one of the energy companies involved in both Jonah and Pinedale (Wyoming History, 2014).

The Wattenberg field covers 180,000 acres in Colorado. Horizontal wells are drilled to access the natural gas. It has a complicated geological structure due to “crustal basement rock weakness [ caused by super-heated] organic Niobrara source rocks” (PDC Energy, 2020).

Prudhoe Bay in Alaska has been producing oil and gas for 40 years. It covers 213,543 acres and holds 46 trillion cubic feet of natural gas (NS Energy, 2020). Pump station 1, at the beginning of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline, is situated within the Prudhoe Bay field. The natural gas is held in place by “an overlying gas cap and in solution with the oil” (Department of Environmental Conservation, 2020). The Alaska LNG project will be using natural gas from the Prudhoe Bay field to produce liquefied natural gas (NS Energy, 2020).

The most common technique for drilling wells is rotary drilling because “it can drill several hundreds or thousands of feet in a day” (Busby, 1999). A long piece of steel pipe with a drill bit on the end is suspended from a rig and driven into the ground by a diesel engine. The rotating bit drilling into the earth “creates the wellbore or borehole” (Busby, 1999). The bit must be changed after 40 to 60 hours of drilling.

Directional drilling is being used more commonly now to access oil and natural gas in unconventional traps (tight formations). Rotary rigs can now drill in many different directions to reach gas in multiple areas, drill offshore, or drill under populated areas (Busby, 1999).

Horizontal drilling can increase the recovery of natural gas “from a thin formation . . . a low-permeability reservoir . . . isolated productive zones . . . by connecting vertical fractures . . . prevent production of excessive gas or water from above or below the reservoir . . . to inject fracturing fluids” (Busby, 1999).

Offshore drilling is more expensive because the average rig drills down to around 10,400 feet. “An offshore exploratory rig must be able to move across the water to different drilling sites” (Busby, 1999).

Drilling barges are used in shallow waters. Jack-up rigs can be raised or lowered and drill down to a depth of 350 feet. A semisubmersible platform floats on pontoons and anchors at the drilling site. These platforms can drill down to 2,000 feet. Drill ships float over the drill site and can drill down to almost any depth (Busby, 1999).

Once a productive field has been discovered, a fixed or a tension-leg platform is permanently anchored at the site. The legs on fixed platforms can be anchored with piles driven into the ocean floor; whereas, tension-leg platforms float above the field and are anchored by “steel tubes connected to heavy weights on the sea floor” (Busby, 1999).

Drilling a dry hole can be one of the biggest expenses associated with drilling wells. More common issues include something breaking inside the well or objects falling into the hole. Drilling must then be stopped and the problem corrected (Busby, 1999).

Pressures become higher as the rig drills deeper. When this occurs, gas and water “can flow into the well, dilute the drilling mud, and reduce its pressure” (Busby, 1999). When the flow of fluids is uncontrolled, this is called a blowout.

“Natural gas is produced from most reservoirs by expansion, where the pressure of the expanding gas underground forces it into the well” (Busby, 1999). When the pressure drops in the well, gas production decreases. It can be stimulated with the use of a compressor (Busby, 1999).

Once the gas has been purified and processed, it is transported through pipelines from the gas field to distribution companies and industrial customers. Compressor stations along the line maintain the pressure needed to keep the gas flowing smoothly through the pipe. The gas flow is measured at the beginning and end of each pipe section, at each compressor station, and each intersection where the pipe branches off into two pipelines. Large industrial customers receive natural gas directly to their facilities, which “requires high-volume meters” (Busby, 1999).

Economically, it is essential to measure natural gas flow accurately at all points of the supply chain because “an error of 1% in measuring 300 million ft3 of gas per day can lead to a difference of about $2 million per year” (Emerson, 2016). After all, customers pay for the amount of energy delivered.

Differential pressure (DP) meters “measure volumetric flow through a calibrated orifice (generally a plate), are inexpensive, and simple in concept” (Emerson, 2016). Measurements must be corrected for density (mass), temperature, pressure, and gas composition. DP meters are not as acceptable as more advanced technologies (Emerson, 2016).

Ultrasonic meters measure volumetric flow rates by measuring “speed and sound in the gas” (Emerson, 2016). They have an accuracy of 0.35% to 0.5%. Some are available with an accuracy of 0.25% (Emerson, 2016).

Coriolis meters “measure mass flow and density” (Emerson, 2016) but temperature, pressure, and gas composition still need to be measured. These meters tend to be rather expensive (Emerson, 2016).

Flow computers “measure, monitor, and may provide control of gas flow for all types of meters” (Emerson, 2016). They record data from volumetric flow measurement, temperature, gas composition, and density in order to calculate flow rate. Every calculation is dated and timed (Emerson, 2016).

Shale gas is usually composed of less than 50% methane and roughly 50% of ethane, propane, butane, pentane and other gases. CO2, H2S, and sand can also be present. DP meters are excellent meters to use at the gas field site and when impurities are removed from the gas (Emerson, 2016).

Once the natural gas has been purified of water and CO2, the natural gas is processed through liquid separators and H2S separators. At this point, a Coriolis meter or ultrasonic meter is used (Emerson, 2016).

Ultrasonic meters are generally used on transmission pipelines, while Coriolis meters are used on distribution lines. To accurately calculate the Btus (British thermal units) per pound, a gas chromatography device is used (Emerson, 2016). One Btu equals “the energy released by burning a match” (U.S. Energy Administration, 2020).

Dawn Pisturino

Thomas Edison State University

October 30, 2020

References

American GeoSciences. (2018). The pinedale gas field, wyoming. Retrieved from

https://www.americangeosciences.org/geoscience-currents/pinedale-gas-field-wyoming.

Blewett, R.L. (Ed.) (1999). Shaping a Nation: A Geology of Australia. Canberra: Australia

       National University.

Busby, R.L. (Ed.). (1999). Natural Gas in Nontechnical Language. Tulsa, OK: PennWell.

Department of Environmental Conservation. (2020). Prudhoe bay fact sheet. Retrieved from

https://www.dec.alaska.gov/

Emerson. (2016). Selecting flow meters for natural gas fiscal measurement. Retrieved from

https://www.emerson.com/documents/automation/article-selecting-flow-meters-for-natural-

       gas-fiscal-measurement-daniel-en-us-177810.pdf.

Geo ExPro. (2007). Producing gas from shales. Retrieved from

https://www.geoexpro.com/articles/2007/03/producing-gas-from-shales.

NS Energy. (2020). Prudhoe bay oil field. Retrieved from

Oil Price. (2015). The top 10 largest oil and gas fields in the united states. Retrieved from

https://www.oilprice.com/Energy/

PDC Energy. (2020). Wattenberg field. Retrieved from

https://www.pdce.com/operations-overview/wattenberg-field/

Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. (2020). Marcellus shale. Retrieved from

https://www.dep.pa.gov/Business/Energy/Pages/default.aspx.

Railroad Commission. (2020). Haynesville bossier shale information. Retrieved from

https://www.rrc.state.tx.us/oil-gas/major-oil-and-gas-formations/haynesvillebossier-shale-

       information/

Texas Drilling. (2020). Carthage. Retrieved from

       http://www.texas-drilling.com/panola-county/carthage.

Wyoming History. (2014). Jonah field and pinedale anticline natural gas success story.

       Retrieved from https://www.wyohistory.org/encyclopedia/jonah-field-and-pinedale-

       anticline-natural-gas-success-story.

U.S. Energy Administration. (2020). British thermal units. Retrieved from

https://www.eia.gov/energyexplained/units-and-calculators/british-thermal-units.php.

Leave a comment »

How the Paramount Decision and the Hollywood Blacklist Changed Hollywood

Rapid post-war changes in American society put downward pressure on studio revenues and profits.  But the Paramount decision and the Hollywood blacklist led to permanent changes that determined how Hollywood studios would conduct business from then on.

Once the Justice Department set its site on the Hollywood filmmaking industry, there was no turning back.  The first antitrust challenge by the Department of Justice came in 1938.  The Hollywood studios operated as trusts, and the Department of Justice was determined to break them up (Lewis 194).

Operating as trusts, the studios held almost complete control over the industry from film development to exhibition.  Studios released new films via a two-tier system.  Most first-tier theaters were owned by the studios.  Second-tier theaters, owned mainly by independents, were pressured by the studios into accepting certain terms if they wanted to screen first-run movies.  The studios used other scams to keep the theaters under their thumbs, such as “blind bidding (the licensing of films sight unseen) [and] block booking (the licensing of an entire slate of films in order to get access to one or two hit titles)” (Lewis 194-195).

After much legal wrangling, the Big Five – MGM, Warner Bros., Paramount, 20th Century-Fox, and RKO – signed an “interim consent decree” (Lewis 195) with the Department of Justice on October 29, 1940.  This decree allowed a system of arbitration to be set up that could resolve conflicts between theater owners and the studios.  But the decree did nothing to break up studio monopolies and end their monopolistic practices.  This led to the studios and the theater owners arbitrating a new consent decree in 1941 called the United Motion Picture Industry (Unity) plan.  The plan gave theater owners more leverage but did not go far enough to limit the power of the studios (Lewis 195).

The Supreme Court agreed to hear the Paramount case in 1948 (which also included RKO, Warner Bros., 20th Century-Fox, Loew’s-MGM, Columbia, Universal, and United Artists.)  On May 3, 1948, the Supreme Court ruled that the studios must divest themselves of studio-owned theaters across the country.  The Court reasoned that the studios had colluded to “restrain free and fair trade and to monopolize the distribution and exhibition of films” (Lewis 195).

On the plus side, the Court found the fines imposed on theater owners by the MPAA [Motion Picture Association of America] for screening films without a PCA [Production Code Administration] seal, unconstitutional (Lewis 196-197).

While domestic revenues and studio profits declined after the Paramount decision, “foreign demand for American films after the war” (Lewis 197) grew steadily.  The Cold War was in full swing.  “The Office of War Information . . . cooperated with the MPAA to establish for the studios an ideological and industrial presence abroad” (Lewis 197) which would ensure that American filmmakers would depict America in a positive light.

Within this climate of anti-Communism and competition with the Soviet Union, the Hollywood blacklist was born.  Fearing Communist propaganda and influence in Hollywood, nineteen studio employees were subpoenaed in 1947 by the House Committee on Un-American Activities.  Only ten were required to show up for questioning (called the Hollywood Ten.)  Noted playwright, Bertolt Brecht, testified in a closed session and later emigrated to East Germany (Lewis 197-198).

Members of the Hollywood Ten were generally uncooperative with the House Committee on Un-American Activities and were ultimately indicted and imprisoned for contempt of Congress.  At first, the MPAA publicly supported the Hollywood Ten.  Its president, Eric Johnston, declared, “There’ll never be a blacklist” (Lewis 200).  But shortly after he backtracked, saying, “We did not defend them” (Lewis 200).  After the Hollywood Ten were indicted and sentenced, the MPAA helped to institute “an industry-wide blacklist” (Lewis 200).

The blacklist benefited the studios financially because the contract system was slowly being replaced by “the union-guild movement” (Lewis 200).  The blacklist allowed studios to exert a certain amount of control over actors, guilds, agents, and lawyers.  At the same time, financiers in New York supported the MPAA and gave them more control over the Hollywood studios (Lewis 200).

As a result of the indictments and subsequent blacklist, the studios cancelled contracts and refused to pay members of the Hollywood Ten.  Civil suits dragged on for years.  Hundreds of “writers, directors, producers, and actors were blacklisted between 1947 and 1957” (Lewis 200), resulting in bitter feelings against the Hollywood studios.

Although the Hollywood studios lost financially when divestiture was ordered by the Supreme Court, they gained more power and control as a result of the Hollywood blacklist when the union-guild movement eventually replaced the contract system.

Dawn Pisturino

Thomas Edison State University

January 9, 2018

Copyright 2018-2021 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

Works Cited

Lewis, Jon. American Cinema: A History. New York: Norton, 2008.

7 Comments »

The Rise and Fall of the Hollywood Studio System

1928 MGM Logo

The studio system has its roots in the principles of Henry Ford, whose success in the automobile industry led other industries to adopt his assembly-line production process.  The high risks and costs associated with making movies led the studios to adopt more controlled, streamlined processes.

After the Wall Street crash of 1929, the eight major movie studios developed the contract system (Lewis 102-103).  All people associated with making a movie (writers, directors, actors, technicians, etc.) worked on an exclusive contract with the studio.  Studio executives managed the production of the movie and the labor force.  It was a top-down style of management that included a General Manager, Executive Manager, Production Manager, Studio Manager, and individual unit production supervisors (Barsam 470).

“The studio used its contracts to control production costs and efficiently staff the production teams at work on its slate of films” (Lewis 103).  The result was a polished product which reflected the individual style of each studio.  These contracts only worked one way, however.  The employee was required to work for the studio according to the terms of the contract.  But the studio had the option of cancelling a contract at will.

The studios cranked out quantities of movies (538 movies were produced in 1937) (Barsam 473), but they were not so concerned with quality.  After World War II, the number of movies produced in 1946 fell to 370 (Barsam 473).

Three factors ultimately led to the downfall of the Hollywood studio system: studios had become such efficient production machines, they no longer needed big name central producers; the rise of the labor unions and the government’s interference in their monopoly over production, distribution, and exhibition; “the studios began to reorganize their management into the producer-unit system” (Barsam 474).

Additionally, the creative talent—writers, directors, actors, etc.—demanded contracts that would allow for more creative freedom and better quality of movies.  World War II profoundly impacted the number of personnel and film supplies available to make movies.  And finally, the invention of television created a new form of competition (Barsam 474).

The glamorous Golden Age of Hollywood was supported by the studio system, which controlled all means of movie production, distribution, and exhibition.  As the world and technology changed, the studio system was forced to change, too.

 Dawn Pisturino

Thomas Edison State University

December 21, 2017

Copyright 2017-2021 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

Works Cited

Barsam, Richard, and Dave Monahan. Looking at Movies, 5th ed. New York: Norton, 2016.

Lewis, Jon. American Cinema: A History. New York: Norton, 2008.

2 Comments »

Why does Australia have so much Natural Gas?

Gorgon Project, Chevron.com

Chevron is a multinational corporation with offices, plants, pipelines, partnerships, and subsidiaries located all over the world. One of the company’s largest and most important overseas projects is the Gorgon Project – and associated smaller projects – situated off the coast of Western Australia.

Australia does not produce a lot of oil, but it produces an abundance of natural gas. This phenomenon is due to the geology of the Australian continent (Blewett, 2012, p. 221).

The Northern Carnarvon Basin, created during the Paleozoic period, is located off the northwestern coast of Australia, on the northwest shelf. “The basin is Australia’s premier hydrocarbon province where the majority of deep water wells have been drilled (greater than 500 meters water depth) . . . Almost all the hydrocarbon resources are reservoired within the Upper Triassic, Jurassic, and Lower Cretaceous sandstones beneath the regional early Cretaceous seal” (Geoscience Australia, 2020). The faults on this area run north or northeast, among “structural highs and sub-basins” (Geoscience Australia, 2020) which occurred over four geological phases involving glacial and tectonic activity (Geoscience Australia, 2020).

The basin covers 535,000 square kilometers, with water depths up to 4,500 meters. Paleozoic, Mesozoic, and Cenozoic sediment covers the area, up to 15,000 meters thick. The area comprises two Mesozoic petroleum supersystems (Geoscience Australia, 2020).

Total petroleum systems of the northwest shelf include the Dingo-Mungaroo/Barrow system and the Locker/Mungaroo/Barrow system. In the Dingo-Mungaroo/Barrow system, the hydrocarbon source rock is composed of Jurassic Dingo Claystone. The reservoir rocks comprise the Triassic Mungaroo Formation, Jurassic rocks, and the Cretaceous Barrow Group. In the Locker/Mungaroo/Barrow system, the source rock is composed of Triassic Locker Shale. The reservoir rocks comprise the Triassic Mungaroo Formation and the Cretaceous Barrow Group. Muderong Shale makes up the vast seal over much of the area (Bishop, 1999, p.6-7).

A total petroleum system is composed of several elements: the depocenter, which is the basin; the source, which is made of rocks containing organic materials; the reservoir, which is made of porous, permeable rock, such as sandstone; the seal, which is made of impermeable rock, such as shale; the trap, which holds the accumulation of source rocks; the overburden, which is composed of sediments subjected to heat; and the migration pathways, which allow the source rocks to form a link with the trap (Blewett, 2012, p. 176).

Additionally, there must be geochemical processes which cause “trap formation, hydrocarbon generation, expulsion, migration, accumulation, and preservation” in a precise order with exact timing (Blewett, 2012, p. 176). Millions of years of geological events, such as the shifting of tectonic plates and glacier movement, as well as extreme changes in weather, such as the change from the Ice Age to a more temperate climate, formed the particular geology which makes up the Australian continent and its surrounding oceans (Blewett, 2012, p. 217).

“The main trap styles in the [Carnarvon] basin are anticlines, horsts, fault roll-over structures, and stratigraphic pinch-outs beneath the regional seal” (Blewett, 2012, p. 220). Australia has an abundance of natural gas due to the type of vegetation which decayed and became trapped in “non-marine coaly source rocks” (Blewett, 2012, p. 221) and the fact that some basins did not evolve long enough to create the conditions to produce oil.

Chevron entered the Western Australia oil and gas market when it purchased Caltex in 1952. In 1980, the Gorgon natural gas field was discovered west of Barrow Island; and in 2003, Chevron received permission from the Western Australia government to build a natural gas plant on Barrow Island (Chevron Australia, 2020).

Barrow Island is located 60 kilometers off the northwest coast of Western Australia. Chevron’s Gorgon Project includes three liquefied natural gas (LNG) processing plants capable of producing 15.6 million tonnes per annum (MTPA), and a domestic natural gas plant capable of producing 300 terajoules of natural gas per day (Chevron Australia, 2020). According to the operators of the Dampier-Bunbury Pipeline, which transmits this natural gas to distributors, one terajoule of natural gas can provide energy to the average household in Western Australia for 50 years, so Chevron’s Gorgon Project is a significant contribution to Western Australia’s regional economy (Dampier Bunbury Pipeline, 2020). The project is expected to be productive for 40 or more years (Chevron Australia, 2020).

The onshore Gorgon Project also includes three acid gas removal units, two LNG tanks, four condensate tanks, three CO2 compression plants, two monoethylene glycol (MEG) processing plants, 2 inlet processing units, and ground flare capabilities. Marine facilities, an airport, employee housing, a fire station, laboratory, warehouse, workshop, and a permanent operations facility complete the physical structure of the Barrows Island onshore project (Chevron Australia, 2020).

“A subsea gas gathering system is located on the ocean floor at the Gorgon and Jansz-Io fields, located about 65 and 130 kilometers respectively off the west coast of Barrow Island” (Chevron Australia, 2020). From there, natural gas from both fields is transmitted to the Barrow Island facility by undersea pipelines. After processing, gas for domestic use is transmitted through a 90 kilometer domestic gas pipeline that ties in to the Dampier-Bunbury Natural Gas Pipeline. Once the LNG is processed, it is stored and shipped by large LNG tankers to Japan and other Asian countries (Chevron Australia, 2020).

The Dampier-Bunbury Pipeline (DBP), at 1600 kilometers long, is the longest pipeline in Australia. Built in 1984, it is expected to last for another 50 years. Every year, it receives 112,000 hours of planned maintenance to ensure its safety and optimal condition. Twenty-seven turbine compressor units, located at ten sites along the pipeline, exert enough pressure to push the natural gas along the pipeline. It has functioned at 99% efficiency for the last ten years. Owned by the Australian Gas Infrastructure Group, more than 2 million homes and businesses benefit from the pipeline. The company also supplies natural gas to power generators, mines, and manufacturers — and other companies can tie in to the pipeline (Dampier Bunbury Pipeline, 2020).

DBP owns 34,000 kilometers of distribution networks, 5,500 kilometers of transmission pipelines, 52 petrajoules of storage capacity, employs 315 workers, and contracts with 1,600 contractors. The company’s goal is to provide natural gas at the lowest possible cost. The company provides 21% natural gas for power generation; 39% for mineral processing; 9% for other industrial purposes; 9% for retail outlets; 22% for mining.  Alcoa and BHP Billiton are two of its large industrial customers. The company provides natural gas to Synergy and Alinta for power generation (Dampier Bunbury Pipeline, 2020).

DBP operates the Dampier-Bunbury Pipeline for the Australian Gas Infrastructure Group (AGIG). It also plans and constructs metering stations, executes the tie-ins for other companies, and provides an odorization service. In 2013, “DBP completed the metering station for the connection of the Chevron-operated Gorgon Project” (Dampier Bunbury Pipeline, 2020).

Transmission pipelines are usually 6-48 inches in diameter and can handle pressures of 200-1500 psi. The high pressures move the natural gas through the line. Distribution pipelines are separated into main lines and service lines and carry natural gas to homes and businesses. They operate at lower pressures for safety reasons (Pipeline Safety Trust, 2019).

Compressors fueled by electric or natural gas use high pressure to push the gas through the pipeline. Compressor stations are located about every 50 to 100 miles along the line, and pressures can be adjusted as needed (Pipeline Safety Trust, 2019).

Gas pipeline operators, such as DBP in Western Australia, monitor the pipeline for problems using “a Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition system (SCADA). A SCADA is a pipeline computer system designed to gather information such as flow rate through the pipeline, operational status, pressure, and temperature readings” (Pipeline Safety Trust, 2019). These readings help operators to address problems quickly and easily. Operators, for example, can isolate a section of pipe that is malfunctioning or adjust flow rates via the compressors and valves (Pipeline Safety Trust, 2019).

When a transmission line reaches the utility company’s “city gate,” it begins to transmit gas into the lower pressure distribution system that ultimately delivers the gas to homes and businesses. This is where the odorant is added to the gas. Gas mains, which are usually 2-24 inches in diameter, utilize pressures up to 200 psi. The service lines, on the other hand, only use pressures up to 10 psi (Pipeline Safety Trust, 2019).

The gas utility company is responsible for monitoring flow rates and pressures along the distribution line. When regulators sense a change in pressure, they will open or close in order to adjust the amount of pressure in the line. Relief valves release excess gas if the pressures build too high (Pipeline Safety Trust, 2019).

Pipeline operators, such as DBP in Western Australia, must monitor pipes for corrosion, leaks, breakages, and construction workers digging too close to the lines. They must follow pressure specifications determined by government regulatory bodies, otherwise, pipelines can become a safety and environmental hazard to the local community (Pipeline Safety Trust, 2019).

Barrow Island is a Class-A nature reserve, and Chevron has worked hard with the Western Australia government to maintain the local habitat for the native flora and fauna. Their goal to reduce CO2 emissions has led them to construct a CO2 injection system which allows them to inject excess CO2 from natural gas into a deep underwater trap called the Dupuy Formation, located two kilometers underneath Barrow Island. This system is projected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40% and is fully supported by the Australian government (Chevron Australia, 2020).

Chevron is a well-respected energy corporation in Western Australia. The Gorgon Project alone is projected to contribute $400 billion to Australia’s Gross Domestic Product and $69 billion in taxes to the federal government between 2009 and 2040. With its booming natural gas industry in place, Australia is now a leading producer of natural gas in the world market (Chevron Australia, 2020).

Dawn Pisturino

Thomas Edison State University

October 27, 2020

Copyright 2020-2021 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

 References

Bishop, M.G. (1999). Total Petroleum Systems of the Northwest Shelf, Australia: The Dingo-

       Mungaroo/Barrow and the Locker/Mungaroo/Barrow. Reston: U.S. Geological Survey.

Blewett, R. (Ed.). (2012). Shaping a Nation: A Geology of Australia. Canberra: Australia

       National University.

Chevron Australia. (2020). Gorgon project overview. Retrieved from

https://www.australia.chevron.com.

Dampier Bunbury Pipeline. (2020). About dbp. Retrieved from https://www.dbp.net.au.

Geoscience Australia. (2020). Energy. Retrieved from

https://www.ga.gov.au/scientific-topics/energy.

Pipeline Safety Trust. (2019). Pipeline basics & specifics about natural gas pipelines. Retrieved

       From http://www.pstrust.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/2019-PST-Briefing-Paper-02-Nat

       GasBasics.pdf.

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