US puts offshore oil at 86bn bbl, gas at 420,000 bcf

02 April 2009 20:30  [Source: ICIS news]

WASHINGTON (ICIS news)--US outer continental shelf (OCS) regions may hold as much as 86bn bbl of oil and up to 420,000bn cubic feet (bcf) of natural gas, the Interior Department said in a survey of available OCS data issued on Thursday.

However, the department noted that these estimates of “technically recoverable” OCS oil and gas reserves are only approximate and for some offshore regions are based on seismic research that is more than 25 years old.

In addition, the department noted in its new OCS energy resources report, for many OCS areas there is no seismic data available at all.

“The Outer Continental Shelf energy resources report found huge information gaps about the location and extent of offshore oil and gas resources,” said Interior Department secretary Ken Salazar .

Subsea federal lands on the Atlantic and Pacific coasts were closed to energy development - drilling and seismic research - for 27 years under presidential and congressional moratoria that were withdrawn or allowed to expire last year.

Access to those long-closed areas has been a major policy objective for US petrochemical producers, who are heavily dependent on natural gas as a feedstock and facility energy fuel.

“Along the Atlantic coast, for example, the seismic data we have is twenty-five years old,” Salazar said, speaking to a renewable energy conference.

“How should we gather the information we currently lack about our offshore oil and gas resources?  How do we manage the costs of gathering seismic data?” he asked, adding: “Are there areas on the OCS that should be of priority for information collection?”

The survey of available but outdated data on OCS oil and gas reserves found that within technically recoverable resources, supplies that could be economically recovered at current prices would be approximately 52bn barrels of oil and more than 200,000 bcf of natural gas.

The US consumes annually about 7.5bn bbl of oil and 21,600 bcf of natgas. More than 60% of US oil consumption is imported from foreign suppliers.

The report issued by the department is meant to provide best available information on OCS resources in advance of four public hearings that the department will hold this month on how to proceed with offshore energy development.

The hearings will be held in Atlantic City, New Jersey, on 6 April (Monday); New Orleans, Louisiana, on 8 April; Anchorage, Alaska, on 14 April; and in San Francisco, California, on 16 April.

The meetings are likely to be contentious as many residents and policy makers in US coastal regions are opposed to any offshore energy development. Some in Congress want the OCS drilling moratoria to be reinstated.

In the closing days of President George W Bush’s administration, the department’s Minerals Management Service (MMS) issued a new five-year plan for developing energy resources in parts of the US offshore regions along the Atlantic and Pacific coastlines.

However, shortly after President Barack Obama took office in January this year, the Interior Department put the Bush development plan on hold for six months, extending the public comment period to 21 September this year.

The Interior Department report on offshore resources also reviews likely potential for wind, solar and ocean wave energy and details the many environmental and wildlife considerations involved in OCS development.

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By: Joe Kamalick
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