US opens door to Atlantic offshore oil and gas development

27 February 2014 22:03  [Source: ICIS news]

WASHINGTON (ICIS)--The US on Thursday issued rules for seismic surveys in outer continental shelf (OCS) regions of the nation’s Atlantic Coast, opening the door for potential oil and natural gas exploration in OCS regions thought to be rich in energy reserves.

The US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) issued its final environmental impact statement governing seismic surveys for the East Coast outer continental shelf regions.

BOEM is part of the US Interior Department.

The statement does not authorise seismic surveys but instead establishes ground rules for environmental considerations that must be honoured when site-specific seismic surveys are proposed.

The move is significant because it allows seismic research of US East Coast OCS regions that have not been surveyed in 40 years, since before three-dimensional seismic technology became available.

That breakthrough technology has significantly advanced successful offshore drilling, vastly reducing the number of “dry holes” drilled by exploration and development (E&D) firms.

US East Coast and West Coast offshore areas have been closed to exploration and development for about 40 years under various presidential and congressional moratoria.

Along with other coastal areas off Alaska, about 87% of US OCS regions have been closed to energy development since the 1970s.

The American Petroleum Institute (API) welcomed the decision, noting that “The energy we have today results from plans set in motion rears ago”.

“To continue America’s energy renaissance in the future, we must explore and plan for the future now,” said API upstream director Erik Milito.

But the BOEM announcement was criticised as being long overdue by Senator Lisa Murkowski (Republican-Alaska).

Murkowski, ranking Republican on the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, said that “it is a shame that it has taken this long to begin the work needed to survey our nation’s energy resources off the Atlantic Coast”.

She said that she hopes the BOEM announcement “will mean boats in the water this year, followed very soon by lease sales”.

Congressman Doc Hastings (Republican-Washington), chairman of the House Committee on Natural Resources, urged that BOEM move quickly to approve nine seismic survey applications for the Atlantic OCS that are already pending.

“While it has taken far too long, this step today will help put America on a path to open new areas to more American energy production,” Hastings said.

Senator Mary Landrieu (Democrat-Louisiana), chairwoman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said she was encouraged by the BOEM announcement.

She also called for a federal revenue-sharing plan for OCS energy development off states along the Atlantic Coast.

Further oil and gas development along the US East Coast could add still more energy resources to US industry, particularly the nation’s petrochemicals producers, which are already benefitting from major increases in domestic shale gas production.

Paul Hodges studies key influences shaping the chemical industry in Chemicals and the Economy

By: Joe Kamalick
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