Seismic Needed For Informed Atlantic Offshore Discussion

November 1, 2017


We’ve applauded the administration’s decision to focus on the strategic importance of offshore U.S. energy by launching work on a new five-year offshore oil and natural gas leasing program – with a first draft expected by the end of the year. We’ve also urged federal officials to craft a leasing program that’s as robust as possible, recognizing that long lead times put a premium on wise decision-making today that will support America’s energy future.

A sensible, safe and forward-looking offshore energy strategy – one that acknowledges that keeping 94 percent of federal offshore acreage off limits to responsible development risks U.S. energy security – underscores the need for reliable scientific data to establish the size and location of offshore oil and natural gas reserves, through safe seismic testing. Every other discussion about where offshore development may occur in the years ahead is premature until the resource base is known.

In this context, a recent claim that U.S. military priorities and offshore energy development in the Atlantic Ocean are mostly incompatible is just plain silly. Take a look at this Defense Department map, from a 2015 DoD assessment:



There’s a whole lot of ocean out there that could be safely developed for oil and natural gas – even under a two-year-old assessment conducted under a previous administration. According to the map above, the vast majority of the Mid- and South-Atlantic planning could be developed for oil and natural gas, including virtually all the areas off the coasts of North Carolina and South Carolina.

Through decades of offshore activity on the outer continental shelf, industry has shown that oil and natural gas operations can coexist with other uses and users of the ocean, including the military. This is because the offshore oil and natural gas industry is high-tech, continually innovating and developing technologies to minimize surface presence and reduce potential conflicts with other ocean users. Industry doesn’t stand still but continues to evolve and improve, finding solutions over time to address any challenges.

More specifically, industry has worked cooperatively with the military’s needs in the Gulf of Mexico, respecting stipulations that require special accommodations to military operations and the military’s right to suspend operations and other measures. Bottom line: The Defense Department has complete control over where offshore drilling may occur relative to its bases and operational needs, and industry respects that.  

Overall, the 2015 DoD report states that nearly 97 percent of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s eight planning areas included in the 2017-2022 leasing program draft would be fine for oil and natural gas development, either unrestricted or under site-specific stipulations.

But again, this is a discussion for later, once seismic testing has been conducted and everyone knows what they’re talking about.

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