Deepwater offshore development remains a vital enterprise

May 1, 2010


— Dr. Lee Hunt is president of the International Association of Drilling Contractors located in Houston, Texas. Any views expressed here are his own. —

The Gulf of Mexico rig explosion and subsequent oil spill are regrettable in the extreme.

But the fact remains that offshore drilling and production has for more than four decades provided safe and reliable sources of energy vitally needed by our nation.

According to estimates by the U.S. Minerals Management Service (MMS), yet-to-be-discovered offshore fields could contain 86 billion barrels of oil and 420 trillion cubic feet of gas.

This staggering quantity represents nearly one third of the reserves in Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest oil producer.

These giant fields constitute about 60 percent of the oil and 40 percent of the natural gas that MMS estimates remain undiscovered within these United States.

Simultaneously, America’s thirst for energy, retarded temporarily by the economic slowdown, shows sharp signs of resurging.

Currently, the USA imports two-thirds of its crude oil, and, as our demand for energy increases, so does our reliance on foreign sources.

It is important to remember that the USA is not the world’s sole energy customer.

We may be number one, but others are catching up – and fast. China, for example, is rapidly scaling the ladder of energy consumption.

From 2007 to 2008, Chinese oil demand grew by double digits – 12 percent. Even during the dour recessionary days of 2009, Chinese consumption at mid-year outstripped that of the equivalent period for 2008.

The  Deepwater Horizon accident notwithstanding – overall performance by the industry shows that deepwater offshore drilling is thoughtfully and carefully subjected to extensive planning, intensive training, scientific scrutiny and application of advancing technologies.

To this point, the drilling and production industry has performed well  in assessing and managing risk. In the wake of this accident, investigations, studies, and perhaps new guidelines will certainly ensue, all aiming to improve this vital industry.

We do not cease mining coal because of tragic cave-ins. We continue to fly with knowledge of infrequent crashes. We keep driving, despite road accidents. Similarly, we will continue to drill and produce offshore, even as we work to improve safety and diversify our energy mix.

Without the valuable energy contribution of our offshore fields, energy prices will soar, importation increase, and security decrease.

These must not become the inevitable consequences of this tragic event.  We will learn, improve and persevere in the quest for energy independence.


Photo shows Oil booms protect a small island along Port East in the Gulf of Mexico, south of Louisiana April 29, 2010. REUTERS/Sean Gardner/Greenpeace/Handout


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This slick is an example of what you risk if you want the money that comes from oil exploration off your shores. If you live in a state considering exploration off your coasts, consider that it only takes ONE mistake to devastate your economy, and more importantly, your ecology (upon which your economy depends).

I hope everyone gets a REAL GOOD LOOK at what the Gulf states will endure as a result of one single accident. I would hope that no one would want to play “Russian Roulette”, with their homes and livelihoods. The money isn’t worth it.

Posted by Benny_Acosta | Report as abusive

Completely agree with the comment above. The price we are paying is not admissible, specially since we all know that there are other ways to produce energy. Why don’t we focus on making solar energy an alternative for everyone? This is yet another example that teaches us that we are doing things the wrong way.

Posted by pdecamps | Report as abusive

The previous two comments express nice sentiments. But the fact is that residents and taxpayers pay the price for the spills, while the energy industry profits from tapping these reserves regardless of the risks to anyone else. We can hope for some regulatory reforms, but prudence dictates that we move away from the gulf states, suppress our taste for warm-water seafood, and invest in energy company stock.

Posted by GeneralDisarray | Report as abusive

American Oil Spillage & Environmental Racism; A Case Of Permanent Double Standards  /04/american-oil-spillage-environmental .html

These giant oil companies and conglomerates are adept at polluting and degrading local environments without regard for the nations and the peoples who inhabit these now toxically polluted nations. In Nigeria for instance, giant multinational oil companies are disdainful and contemptuous of the lands, environment, the governments and the people. Foreign oil conglomerates routinely ignores court orders and judgments. The oil majors have been known to ignore congressional hearings and summons by the highest law making body of Nigeria, the National Assembly. The oil majors are law unto themselves and whenever these oil titans are required to comply with the laws of the land, they resort to using political pressures from their home governments in Amsterdam, London, Paris, Washington etc

Nations where rivers and seas have been polluted with frequent oil spillages. Nations where farmlands and fishing rivers and ponds are now replete with stagnant waters coated with slicks from oil spillages upon spillages for decades; with resultant stymied, stunted and stifled economic opportunities such as farming, fishing and routine of daily life and leisure.

There are documented facts and evidences of gas flaring in Nigeria’s Niger Delta, gas flaring which has gone on for 24 a day, everyday for several decades, resulting miscarriages, burning eyes, and many other health hazards which are now common in the Nigeria Delta. Nigeria is one of such nations where so much profits are derived by the oil multinationals, and yet, there remains abject poverty. And besides, these oil companies have for several decades been unwilling to voluntarily, clean up oil spillages caused by themselves. All this, despite my experience of haven now witnessed the double standards and discriminations of EXXON and BP reacting promptly and immediately to clean up after themselves, upon spillages, as was in Alaska and now, in the Gulf of Mexico

I take the view that Nigerians are human beings just like the Americans and Europeans, and therefore, entitled to live in a pollution free environment. And in this instance, what is good for Americans and Europeans in terms of pollution free environment, is certainly good for Nigerians as well!

Shell Oil or the so-called Royal Dutch Shell Company has been engaged in gas flaring for decades and decades in Nigeria. Shell Oil and other multinational oil companies which are engaged in oil exploration and prospecting in Nigeria, have been involved oil drilling environmental pollutions and degradations and have committed countless oil spillages and gas flaring in Nigeria and in the most reckless manner. These oil companies have no regard for the people and the environment in Nigeria and other less developed nations where these companies are engaged in oil drilling activities.

There should be a single and uniform standard in precautions taken to avoid oil spillages, oil exploration, prospecting and oil drilling negative environmental impacts. There should, similarly be, a single standard for crisis management methods, procedures, guidelines and rules in tackling the negative environmental impacts and adverse consequences of harvesting hydrocarbon energy and not the least of all these, is equality of resources which are allocated or earmarked for managing environmental disasters or crises, regardless of whether such disasters occurs in Nigeria, Kuwait, Venezuela, Alaska or Louisiana. All lives affected or involved should be accorded equal value and equal dignity and respect.

Posted by Paul-Adujie | Report as abusive

I agree with your comments.The price we are paying is not affordable to produce energy.we can also produce energy in many other ways.

Posted by catherinalucy | Report as abusive

This is an other example that teaches us that we are doing things the wrong way.

Posted by catherinalucy | Report as abusive