The People of America's Oil and Natural Gas Indusry

America’s Growing Energy Abundance

Mark Green

Mark Green
Posted July 16, 2014

The federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) has newly revised resource estimates for the Atlantic outer continental shelf (OCS). Are you sitting down?

boemBOEM now believes areas within the 200 nautical mile U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone off the Atlantic Coast, from Maine to Florida, could hold 4.72 billion barrels of technically recoverable oil and 37.51 trillion cubic feet of technically recoverable natural gas. Those numbers are 43 percent and 20 percent higher, respectively, than the last government estimate of the Atlantic OCS done in 2011. BOEM:

The 2014 Assessment of Undiscovered Technically Recoverable Oil and Gas Resources of the Atlantic Outer Continental Shelf covers BOEM’s current understanding of assessing and identifying undiscovered fields of offshore oil and gas. A 43% increase in Atlantic undiscovered oil and a 20% increase in undiscovered gas are a result of how improved data analysis techniques coupled with emerging fields in worldwide analogs can affect the undiscovered resource base for the United States.

The simple, non-technical analysis: Wow!

BOEM’s assessment of 10 geologic plays in the Atlantic OCS is based on relevant data and information available as of last December. What’s more, BOEM says its assessment doesn’t include “potentially large quantities of hydrocarbon resources that could be recovered from future fields by enhanced recovery techniques.” In other words, this new, larger assessment could very well be on the short side of what could actually be developed using modern recovery technologies and methods.

BOEM notes that current drilling technology allows exploration and development in water depths of up to 12,000 feet (nearly 2.5 miles) and 40,000 feet total depth (more than 7.5 miles). According to the agency, the Atlantic OCS reserves fall within the “current technology envelope.” Thus, federal officials assume oil and natural gas reserves there can be explored, developed and produced. BOEM:

Recent technological advancements, such as horizontal wells and multi-lateral completions, enable the recovery of a higher percentage of the in-place resources from a field. Also, the introduction of drill ships and semi-submersibles capable of drilling in up to 12,000 feet of water depth, coupled with dual gradient drilling techniques, will likely expand the envelope of producible oil and gas resources in very challenging environments.

Bottom line: The new BOEM assessment significantly increases the size of the oil and natural gas reserves likely to be found on the U.S. outer continental shelf. Our energy wealth just got bigger.

This is very good news for America’s energy security, but only if we choose to safely and responsibly develop the energy that’s there on the OCS – not only off the Atlantic Coast, but also other OCS waters. The fact is 87 percent of our offshore areas under federal control remain off limits to energy development, including the Atlantic OCS:


America’s offshore energy potential remains just that – potential energy – until more of the OCS is opened for leasing, exploration and responsible development. The more you explore for oil and natural gas, the more you find. A first step is allowing seismic surveying in the Atlantic, which the federal government is considering for the Mid-Atlantic and South Atlantic (areas indicated by stripes in the map above).

A recent study showed opening the Atlantic OCS could result in $195 billion in cumulative investment and operational spending between 2017 and 2035. By 2035, offshore oil and natural gas development could generate nearly 280,000 jobs, contribute up to $23.5 billion per year to the U.S. economy and generate $51 billion in cumulative revenue for government.

Jobs, economic growth and greater energy security would follow safe development of America’s offshore energy reserves – if we choose to do it. If we choose energy.


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.