Posted February 27, 2014
The federal government has released its environmental review on the potential impacts of seismic surveying on the Atlantic outer continental shelf (OCS) – testing that’s key to future oil and natural gas development off the U.S. coast, from Delaware to central Florida. That development could significantly add to domestic energy production, create jobs and stimulate economic growth and strengthen America’s energy security.
By permitting seismic surveying in the Atlantic and including Atlantic lease sales in the federal government’s next five-year leasing plan, we could see major benefits, according to a study by Quest Offshore Resources:
- Nearly 280,000 jobs created by 2035.
- $195 billion in cumulative investment and operational spending by oil and natural gas operators between 2017 and 2035.
- $23.5 billion per year contributed to the U.S. economy.
- $51 billion in cumulative revenue to government.
- By 2035 offshore oil and natural gas development could produce an incremental 1.3 million barrels of oil equivalent per day – about 70 percent of the current output from the Gulf of Mexico.
Quest’s chart showing job creation:
And investment and operational spending by oil and natural gas operators:
An interactive Atlantic OCS map showing potential state-by-state economic benefits, according to Quest:
The key to jobs, economic stimulus and more domestic energy production from these offshore areas is two-fold: (1) Securing permission for seismic surveying; and (2) Including the Atlantic OCS in the government’s 2017-2022 plan for offshore lease sales.
The two are inextricably linked. Seismic surveying involves recording the way sound waves generated near the surface reflect off rocks beneath the ocean floor. The information is used to produce detailed, three-dimensional maps that allow engineers to pinpoint the safest and most efficient places to drill.
Such information is critical to potential oil and natural gas operators as well as the federal government. Yet, surveying involves significant investment that surveying companies are unlikely to make if the area to be surveyed isn’t a candidate for future leasing, signified by being included in the government’s five-year plan.
API’s Erik Milito, director of upstream and industry operations, told reporters during a conference call that congressional and executive branch moratoriums on Atlantic OCS development were lifted in 2008 and that the process of developing the environmental review for seismic surveying began in 2009:
“(Historically), without having the promise to actually get out there to lease and develop those areas you didn’t have the interest in going out there and doing the seismic work. Once those moratoriums were lifted and we saw announcements from the administration … that the Atlantic would be available for potential leasing opportunities, at that point you actually saw seismic companies actually submitting applications to shoot seismic. … The good news is we’ve gotten to this point which will allow us to move forward, hopefully, with the permitting of the seismic activity and eventually the leasing opportunities.”
The government’s new environmental review examines the potential impacts of seismic surveying on marine life. Milito said seismic testing has been conducted safely in the Gulf for decades. The last surveying in the Atlantic OCS occurred about 30 years ago, he said, which means resource estimates there are far out of date. Milito described the care with which seismic surveying is conducted:
“Like all offshore operations, seismic surveys are highly regulated, and surveyors follow strict guidelines to protect marine life. The process begins with a soft-start – a technique that gradually increases sound levels, allowing animals that may be sensitive to this sound time to leave the area. Onboard visual observers and acoustic monitoring devices are also used. If they detect sensitive marine life in the vicinity, then all operations stop immediately and are restarted only when the area is clear.”
Here’s a video showing the process:
Industry will study and analyze the government’s new environmental review. The hope is the process moves forward, Milito said:
“By permitting seismic surveys in the Atlantic and including Atlantic lease sales in the next five-year leasing plan, the Obama administration can build a long-term path to new jobs for American workers, new revenue for the government, and greater energy security for all of us. This path has broad and bipartisan support from the public, local officials, governors and members of Congress, and our industry is ready to do its part.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mark Green joined API after a career in newspaper journalism, including 16 years as national editorial writer for The Oklahoman in the paper’s Washington bureau. Mark also was a reporter, copy editor and sports editor. He earned his journalism degree from the University of Oklahoma and master’s in journalism and public affairs from American University. He and his wife Pamela live in Occoquan, Va., where they enjoy their four grandchildren.