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.