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Offshore

Access
to Oil and Natural Gas Resources
Access to Domestic Sources
Increasing access to domestic sources of oil and natural gas would
create new high paying jobs, bring billions of dollars to federal
and state treasuries, reduce our balance of payments and enhance
America’s energy security.
Production of oil and natural gas on federal lands has • Local employment also would benefit with the addition
brought billions of dollars of revenue into federal and of construction jobs as well as service and support
state treasuries. These royalties are one of the largest positions.
sources of income to the federal government.
• In 2030, 160,000 jobs would be created.
According to the U.S. Department of the Interior, in fiscal
year 2008, the agency distributed a record $23.4 billion
1 U.S. Minerals Management Service (MMS) press release, November 29, 2008.
to the federal government, states and American Indian
2 PWC Study, The Economic Impacts of the Oil and Natural Gas Industry on the U.S.
tribes from onshore and offshore energy production. Economy: Employment, Labor Income and Value Added, September 2009.
Nearly $22 billion of that amount came from oil and
natural gas production.

• A part of that revenue included $10 billion in bonus


bids paid by companies to lease tracts for offshore
energy exploration on the Outer Continental Shelf
in the Gulf of Mexico and Alaska.

• A total of 35 states received $2.6 billion from


these revenues.1

According to an ICF International study commissioned


by the American Petroleum Institute (API), developing
America’s vast domestic oil and natural gas resources
that were kept off-limits by Congress for decades could
generate more than $1.7 trillion in government revenue,
including $1.3 trillion in revenues from offshore
development alone. These revenues would be
earned over the life of the resource.2

Increased federal leasing could bring additional high


paying jobs to Americans. Our industry directly employs
2.1 million Americans, with another seven million jobs
supported by the industry.2

• Oil and natural gas industry exploration and production


wages in 2006 were more than double the national
average.

• New manufacturing jobs would be created to develop


and install the infrastructure to bring new resources
to market.
Outer Continental Shelf Resources
Where can we find new resources? Right here.
New resources could be found in the federal waters • The Interior Department’s Minerals Management
off the United States, if the government allows access Service, the federal agency responsible for regulating
to them. oil and natural gas leasing in federal waters, still needs
to set out a leasing schedule before any oil and natural
• Congress has allowed the decades-old moratoria gas development offshore the East and West coasts
banning leasing on most of the Outer Continental can take place.
Shelf (OCS) off the lower 48 states to expire.
• In February 2009, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar
• A new ICF International study, Strengthening Our announced he would extend the comment period by
Economy: The Untapped U.S. Oil and Gas Resources, six months for a proposed plan and leasing schedule
found that opening up these areas could lift domestic to open up additional offshore areas for leasing from
crude production by nearly 1 million barrels a day and 2010 to 2015.
natural gas production by 3 billion cubic feet per day.2
• Any proposed plan goes through an extensive review
before any final decision.
Source: API projections based on MMS resource estimates by water depth for the Outer Continental Shelf.

Atlantic and Pacific Resources


Congress should allow the U.S. oil and natural gas industry
to do what it does best – produce the energy America needs.
With energy consumption expected to grow in the coming be developed in an environmentally safe manner with
decades, America needs access to its untapped domestic a minimal impact on coastal communities.
resources. These resources can replace output from
maturing fields and strengthen our energy security. • 74 percent of the undiscovered oil resources and 48
percent of the natural gas resources in the Atlantic and
According to the U.S. Minerals Management Service, Pacific Oceans are located within 50 miles of the shore.
areas of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans that had been off This is particularly important in the Pacific, where more
limits to drilling contain an estimated 14.3 billion barrels than 90 percent of the resources are located within 50
of oil and 55 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. What does miles of the shores.
that really mean?
• Some of the most promising and known reserves,
• 14.3 billion barrels of oil is enough to fuel 237 million including 12 fields off the shore of California, would
cars on the road for more than 2 years and heat 8.9 be off-limits if an arbitrary coastline buffer zone were
million households that use heating oil for more than established.
21/2 years.
• Advances in drilling and production technology have
• 55 trillion cubic feet of natural gas is enough to heat allowed the industry to develop fields close to existing
60 million households – or every home that heats with infrastructure without the installation of additional
natural gas in the United States -- for the next 13 years. platforms. For example, off the coast of California,
this has allowed the industry to use a single platform
All of these areas should be available for exploration and to access supplies from 4 miles away, resulting in
production without buffer zones, since these areas can additional production of 10,000 barrels a day.
Eastern Gulf of Mexico Resources
While Congress in late 2008 lifted the moratoria on oil and
natural gas development in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans,
promising areas in the Eastern Gulf of Mexico remain off limits.
The federal government continues to prohibit oil and
natural gas exploration in the majority of the areas in
the Eastern Gulf of Mexico. According to the Minerals
Management Service, the federal agency responsible
for overseeing federal offshore lands, there are several
known fields with discovered oil and natural gas
resources in the Eastern Gulf of Mexico.

For example, the Destin Dome, a discovery located 25


miles from shore off Pensacola, Florida, could produce
anywhere from 110 to 165 billion cubic feet of natural
gas a year for the next 20 years, according to exploration
plans filed with the agency.
The Myth of Idle Leases
The purchase of a lease is always a gamble. Exploration is not
a risk-free proposition, but it is an essential part of the energy
business. There is nothing idle about it.
Sometimes when a lease is not producing, critics claim it If a company does not find oil or natural gas in commercial
is “idle.” Much more often than not, non-producing leases quantities, the company hands the lease back to the
are not idle at all; they are under geological evaluation or government, incurs the loss of invested money and
in development and could become an important source moves on to more promising leases.
of domestic supply.
If a company finds resources in commercial quantities,
Companies purchase leases hoping they will hold enough it will produce the lease. But there sometimes can be
oil or natural gas to benefit consumers and become delays – often as long as ten years – for environmental
economically viable for production. Companies can spend and engineering studies, to acquire permits, to install
millions of dollars to purchase a lease and then explore production facilities (or platforms for offshore leases)
and develop it, only to find that it does not contain oil and and to build the necessary infrastructure to bring the
natural gas in commercial quantities. It is not unusual for resources to market. Litigation, landowner disputes
a company to spend in excess of $100 million only to drill and regulatory hurdles also can delay the process.
a dry hole. The reason is that a company usually only has
limited knowledge of resource potential when it buys a
lease. Only after the lease is acquired will the company
be in a position to evaluate it, usually with a very costly
seismic survey followed by an exploration well.
Seismic Technology
The search for oil and natural gas has been revolutionized.
Advanced technology, such as 3D seismic surveys, has Geophysicists and engineers also use 4D seismic
revolutionized the exploration process for oil and natural technology, which adds the dimension of time to the
gas, allowing the industry to have “eyes” underground. survey process. By combining several 3D seismic
surveys taken as the field is producing over time and
This technology improves the industry’s ability to locate arranging them in a sequence, they can create images
potential oil and natural gas reserves with greater that show where oil or natural gas deposits may remain.
accuracy. More precision in locating the resources can
optimize field development and the location of drilling By using 4D models, engineers and geologists can
sites and production facilities. These steps can help gauge how many wells a reservoir might need and
to reduce a project’s environmental footprint. where to place them. This “virtual drilling” can help
protect the environment by reducing the number of
Seismic surveys send high-energy sound waves into wells needed for exploration and production.
the ground and reflect information on underground
rock layers back to the surface. Since sound travels
at different speeds as it passes through various types
of rocks, computers can use the seismic data to
create a 3D map of what lies below the surface.
This is especially helpful as engineers plan the most
efficient way to produce resources from the reservoir.

Image courtesy of Halliburton


Drilling Offshore
The deeper the water, the more technologically advanced
the equipment must be.
In the search for oil and natural gas under the ocean, • Farther offshore, specially designed rigs mounted
three general types of drilling rigs are used: on ships can drill a well in waters 10,000 feet deep.
These rigs float and can be attached to the ocean
• A “jackup” drilling rig is a floating barge with drilling bottom using traditional mooring and anchoring
equipment on its deck and long support legs, and systems or they maintain their position by using
is used in shallow waters up to 300 feet. thrusters to counteract winds, waves and currents.

• A semi-submersible is the most common type of


offshore drilling rig, used for drilling in waters more
than 300 feet deep. Semi-submersibles are floating
vessels supported on large pontoon-like structures
submerged below the sea surface. Semi-submersibles
are attached to the ocean floor using strong chains
or wire cables.
Image courtesy of MMS

Offshore Production Platforms


There are different types of production facilities, based on the
depth of water.
Each of these systems is designed to withstand the wide A Tension Leg Platform (TLP) consists of a floating
range of wind and wave forces, including severe winter structure held in place by vertical, tensioned tendons
storms and hurricanes. Courtesy of the U.S. Minerals connected to the sea floor by pile-secured templates.
Management Service, here is a description of each type Tensioned tendons provide for the use of a TLP in a
of platform:3 broad water depth range with limited vertical motion.
The larger TLPs have been successfully deployed
A Fixed Platform (FP) consists of a jacket (a tall vertical in water depths approaching 4,000 feet.
section made of tubular steel members supported by
piles driven into the seabed) with a deck placed on A Mini-Tension Leg Platform (Mini-TLP) is a floating
top, providing space for crew quarters, a drilling rig, and mini-tension leg platform of relatively low cost developed
production facilities. The fixed platform is economically for production of smaller deepwater reserves which
feasible for installation in water depths up to 1,500 feet. would be uneconomic to produce using more conventional
deepwater production systems. It can also be used as
A Compliant Tower (CT) consists of a narrow, flexible a utility, satellite, or early production platform for larger
tower and a piled foundation that can support a deepwater discoveries. The world’s first mini-TLP was
conventional deck for drilling and production operations. installed in the Gulf of Mexico in 1998.
Unlike the fixed platform, the compliant tower withstands
large lateral forces by sustaining significant lateral
3 Deepwater Development Systems, Gulf of Mexico, www.gomr.mms.gov
deflections, and is usually used in water depths
between 1,000 and 2,000 feet.
Image courtesy of MMS

A SPAR Platform (SPAR) consists of a large diameter A Subsea System (SS) ranges from single subsea wells
single vertical cylinder supporting a deck. It has a typical producing to a nearby platform, FPS, or TLP to multiple
fixed platform topside (surface deck with drilling and wells producing through a manifold and pipeline system
production equipment), three types of risers (production, to a distant production facility. These systems are
drilling, and export), and a hull which is moored using presently used in water depths greater than 5,000 feet.
a taut caternary system of six to twenty lines anchored
into the seafloor. SPARs are presently used in water A Floating Production, Storage and Offloading System
depths up to 3,000 feet, although existing technology (FPSO) consists of a large tanker type vessel moored to
can extend its use to water depths as great as 7,500 feet. the seafloor. An FPSO is designed to process and stow
production from nearby subsea wells and to periodically
A Floating Production System (FPS) consists of a offload the stored oil to a smaller shuttle tanker. The
semi-submersible unit which is equipped with drilling shuttle tanker then transports the oil to an onshore
and production equipment. It is anchored in place with facility for further processing. An FPSO may be suited
wire rope and chain, or can be dynamically positioned for marginally economic fields located in remote
using rotating thrusters. Production from subsea wells deepwater areas where a pipeline infrastructure
is transported to the surface deck through production does not exist.
risers designed to accommodate platform motion.
The FPS can be used in ultra deep water.
Subsea Technology
The search for resources deep below the ocean has spurred
tremendous technological innovation, including the ability
to produce and transport these resources using equipment
installed on the floor of the ocean.
Subsea production The equipment on the seafloor is maintained using
systems include a series robots, known as Remote Operating Vehicles (ROVs),
of gathering lines that which are tethered to a vessel. ROVs serve as eyes
connect the production underwater for these operations, and are designed
from multiple wells into to connect to the subsea equipment.
a single processing hub,
allowing the production These systems are being installed at depths of almost
from the wells to be 10,000 feet of water in the Gulf of Mexico, where
Image courtesy of Shell transported to a platform, deepwater development plays a significant role in
where the oil, gas and produced water are separated current and future energy production. Using this
for transport to shore through a pipeline. The most advanced technology, producers can use a single
sophisticated systems operate as a processing system platform to develop resources from 40 miles away.
underwater, separating the oil, gas and produced waters
so the product can go directly into pipelines to shore.

Image courtesy of Shell


Technologically Amazing Results
The deepwater areas of the Gulf of Mexico represent a proving
ground for technology – and a key component of America’s
energy future.
The U.S. Minerals Management Service reports that • BP’s Thunder Horse Platform, which is located about
about 70 percent of all the oil and 36 percent of all the 150 miles southeast of New Orleans, is the largest
natural gas produced in the Gulf of Mexico is found in producer in the Gulf of Mexico, according to the
water depths greater than 1,000 feet, which is defined U.S. Minerals Management Service. In early 2009,
as deepwater.4 But the technological advances have Thunder Horse’s 7 wells were producing about 260,000
allowed the industry to go much deeper, and resources barrels of oil and 210 million cubic feet of natural gas.4
are being found at depths of more than 5,000 feet of Thunder Horse is also the largest semi-submersible
water, which MMS defines as ultra deepwater. facility in the world, weighing in at 143,300 tons.

How amazing is this technology? • Anadarko’s Independence Hub, the largest natural
gas producing facility in the Gulf of Mexico, is the first
Drillships positioned in the deep waters of the Gulf of energy hub facility in the world and it is capable of
Mexico can drill to a total depth of about 40,000 feet handling 1 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day.
to find resources. These drillships can operate in water A total of 16 wells from 10 natural gas fields in the
that is almost 10,000 feet deep – that’s almost two Eastern Gulf of Mexico flow into this single semi-
miles to the ocean floor – and then another 30,000 submersible platform. They account for about 11
feet below that. percent of the total gas production from the Gulf.
The facility has the capacity to add an additional
• The record water depth for drilling and completing a 10 wells, if new discoveries are allowed.
well in the Gulf of Mexico is 9,356 feet – Shell set that
record in December 2008 at its Perdido Development
4 “Deepwater Gulf of Mexico 2009: Interim Report of 2008 Highlights,”
about 200 miles south of Houston. Perdido also set a U.S. Department of the Interior, Minerals Management Service, May 2009
new record as the deepest SPAR, installed in 8,000 feet
of water. It is expected to begin production in 2010.

• Chevron’s Tahiti Field is the deepest producing field in


the Gulf of Mexico. Located about 190 miles south of
New Orleans, the deepest producing well in this field is
at 26,700 feet below the surface of the water in depths
of about 4,100 feet.
Image courtesy of Eric Hamilton
Oil Spill Prevention
Technology allows us to explore safely while protecting our oceans.
Specialized equipment, such as blowout preventers and Companies operating in these federal waters must
subsurface safety valves, safeguard the ocean waters. comply with a rigorous set of preparedness and planning
requirements. Federal agencies, including MMS and
Industry standards are designed to ensure that both the the United States Coast Guard, perform numerous
design of the platform and the equipment protect the drills and inspections throughout the year to test oil
ocean waters. These design standards were strengthened and natural gas companies’ response and action to
again following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005. appropriate situations. Between 2000 and 2007, the
number of spill drills and exercises has increased from
According to the Minerals Management Service, offshore 669 to 1,584.
leases produce about 1.4 million barrels of oil per day.
MMS calculates that since 1980 less than 0.001 percent Spills prevention is key to the protection of the ocean
of the oil produced in the federal waters offshore has and marine environment. Well planning and engineering,
been spilled. drilling practices and standards, the design of offshore
rigs and other facilities, and the training of personnel –
each play a critical role in achieving prevention of oil spills.

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