Because most of the “light” crude oil that has been discovered in the United States has already been drilled and refined, other options must be explored for domestic production. Offshore drilling has emerged as another option, and it looks like it may play a bigger role than ever.
In a recent press conference, President Obama unveiled plans to open up more of the U.S. coast to offshore drilling, mostly on the Virginia coastline and possibly in the Gulf of Mexico . So let’s look at a few of the most important aspects of offshore drilling:
The basic process of offshore drilling is very similar to onshore. A drill bit drills into the ground, and at a certain depth, steel pipe casing seals off the well to ensure the integrity of the hole. The well continues deeper into the ground, using a smaller diameter hole in each section. Horizontal drilling is also an option to reach more area under the surface. However, offshore drilling must account for completing this process in the middle of the ocean and at depths of hundreds of feet, which requires equipment such as the BOP (blow-out preventer), gate valve, and stack structure at the surface of the ocean floor .
Offshore drilling animation. Subsea equipment necessary for drilling is shown at the end of the animation sequence . **Video disabled embedding, sorry!
- It creates jobs. “Virginians will benefit from the thousands of jobs that will be created and the economic activity and development that will accompany this vital industry’s arrival in the state,” said Virginia’s governor Bob McDonnell . Louisiana receives about $1.5 billion annually for drilling off its coast .
- It is readily available. New deepwater resources have recently been discovered in the past month by Shell in the Gulf of Mexico Mississippi Canyon, and more exploration will most likely lead to more discoveries .
- It has large environmental impacts. Not only are offshore oil spills a threat to marine animals, “the biggest environmental impact has been the estimated 10,000 miles of canals dug by the oil and gas companies to transport oil and lay pipelines” .
- It is very expensive. Much more resources must go into offshore drilling than onshore drilling since the equipment must reach the ocean floor before it can drill. Also, offshore platforms are required to reach the oil reserve. These platforms are like small communities that require food and living accommodations around the clock, as well as transportation to and from the platforms and meteorology stations.
Offshore drilling platform in the Gulf of Mexico .
Whether people support it or not, policy makers look like they plan on making offshore drilling a bigger part of America’s domestic production. What are your thoughts on this trend?