Tuesday, January 2, 2007

Refinery Flightseeing

For an example of technological wonder alloyed with
terrible consequences, consider the refinery. On the one hand, this is the drug lab of the oil addiction of the world. The stuff it makes is bad for the world's health, and the money it makes move around causes hellacious trouble. On the other hand, a refinery takes sticky smelly black crude oil and turns it into the stuff of plastic bags and medicines, pantyhose, gasoline for the infernal combustion engine, Jet-A, brilliant paints and dyes, computer components, cheap toys and cheap furniture, lubricants that keep the moving parts of machines moving…. Note the intricacy of the pipes in the cracking towers. The camera didn't register, but the eye could see, hundreds of lights glinting in the towers. At night from an airplane at low altitude, this thing is a fairy castle of glittering lights, vapors, and fire. What happens in there is genuine magic – not benign white magic. But magic.

Texas City refineries.

1 comment:

Jayme Lynn Blaschke said...

Alexis, I've always been intrigued by the possibility of hydrocarbon (oil or natural gas) deposits on Mars. I wouldn't expect them to be vast, but even small amounts--originating from either purely geological processes or the remnants of some long-extinct Martian biota--would be tremendously valuable to future Mars colonists. Not for fuel, mind you, but for the plastics and other synthetics that can be manufactured from its crude (ahem) components.