The Return of Off Shore drilling?


Offshore drilling typically refers to the discovery and development of oil and gas resources which lie underwater. Most commonly, the term is used to describe oil extraction off the coasts of continents, though the term can also apply to drilling in lakes and inland seas. Offshore drilling presents environmental challenges, especially in the Arctic or close to the shore. Controversies include the ongoing US offshore drilling debate. The off shore moratorium in the US (as a result of the BP spill) ended in October 2010. The Obama administration has decided to allow 13 companies to resume deepwater drilling without additional environmental scrutiny. The decision comes after the administration said it would require strict reviews for new drilling in the Gulf. Others, such as the arctic Shell project, are still blocked by related concerns. The Department of the Interior apparently gave those companies the go-ahead because they were in the middle of previously approved projects when the Gulf spill occurred.

Around 1891, the first submerged oil wells were drilled from platforms built on piles in the fresh waters of the Grand Lake St. Marys in Ohio. Around 1896, the first submerged oil wells in salt water were drilled in the portion of the Summerland field extending under the Santa Barbara Channel in California. The wells were drilled from piers extending from land out into the channel.

There are risks in off shore drilling. No one can deny that. However, the drilling supplies numerous local jobs and adds to the available natural gas and oil supplies. Until there is no future need due to renewable energy sources being developed the world will need these products.

Assessing only the impact of halting deep water drilling, an internal July 2010 memo from Michael Bromwich, director of the bureau of Ocean Energy, to Salazar estimated that the six month moratorium impact would result in over 23,000 jobs lost.

The 13 companies allowed to resume drilling are: ATP Oil & Gas; BHP Billiton Petroleum; Chevron USA; Cobalt International Energy; ENI U.S. Operating Co. Inc.; Hess Corp.; Kerr-McGee Oil & Gas Corp.; Marathon Oil Co.; Murphy Exploration & Production-USA; Noble Energy Inc.; Shell Offshore; Statoil USA; and Walter Oil & Gas Corp.

Not all drilling has been resumed. Sometimes there is vehement local opposition even if the drilling permit has been approved. Alaska Native and conservation groups have succeeded in challenging clean air permits granted to Shell Oil to drill exploration wells in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas.

Numerous groups alleged that Shell’s permits granted by the Environmental Protection Agency would allow the company to emit tons of pollutants into the Arctic environment from a drill ship and support vessels.

The federal Environmental Appeals Board reviewed the permits and last week found that the EPA’s analysis of the impact of nitrogen dioxide emissions from the ships on Alaska Native communities was too limited and would have to be redone.

Article by Andy Soos, appearing courtesy Environmental News Network.

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1 Comment

  1. Jose Aurelino Franca on

    This is an interesting subject. Oil companies Start drilling off shore a long time ago, We don’t have accidents every day or year. It is a rare event.

    Let’s compare these accidents with airplanes crashes, wich happens more often than oil leak and hundreds of lives are affected, There are millions of people flying right now and when a plane crashes, no one raises a flag and says, “It is forbidden to fly”. I know these are not comparable things but, when an airplane crashes, after the accident, all authorities related to it do a deep investigation to discover the cause or causes. After the causes are discovered, the results are published to all involved. Steps must be taken to improve flight security. It becomes mandatory. The flight security is improved and very unlikeli another crash will occur for the same reason.

    Why the authorities don’t do the same thing about oil spill or oil leaking? Why don’t they perform a torough investigation about the reasons it happened? The following investigation will create a mandatory process to all oil compnies to follow creating new standards for drilling off shore

    The article is right,

    There are risks in off shore drilling. No one can deny that. However, the drilling supplies numerous local jobs and adds to the available natural gas and oil supplies. Until there is no future need due for to renewable energy sources being developed the world will need these products.

    Petrobras, a Brasilian oil company, drills mostly offshore. In 2008 they announced the discovery of a huge amount of oil and natural gas on the Brasilian coast on pre salt level. Just to compare, today the off shore drilling is about 2000 meters below sea level, The pre salt level is about 7000 meters under sea level. There is no technology available yet to drill this oil and natural gas, but they are investing a lot in R&D to do it until 2013. I believe it is more likely for an accident to occur in this conditions than in the previous ones. What shoud be done? Forbid them to drill it. I don’t think this is the best solution.

    Looking on the bright side, the technology developed to drill in The pre salt level that is 7000 meters under sea level will bring to 2000 meters drilling a more reliable technology improving the safety to drill it.