Guest post by David Middleton
BOEM rejects Atlantic G&G permits amidst industry criticism01/06/2017Offshore staff
WASHINGTON, D.C. and HOUSTON – The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) has denied six pending geophysical and geological permit applications to conduct airgun seismic surveys in the mid- and south planning areas of the Atlantic Ocean.
The bureau said that the decision is based on a number of factors, including a diminished need for additional seismic survey information because the Atlantic program area has been removed from the 2017-2022 outer continental shelf oil and gas leasing program.
“In the present circumstances and guided by an abundance of caution, we believe that the value of obtaining the geophysical and geological information from new airgun seismic surveys in the Atlantic does not outweigh the potential risks of those surveys’ acoustic pulse impacts on marine life,” said BOEM Director Abigail Ross Hopper. “Since federal waters in the mid- and south Atlantic have been removed from leasing consideration for the next five years, there is no immediate need for these surveys.”
International Association of Geophysical Contractors President Nikki Martin, National Ocean Industries Association President Randall Luthi, and API Director of Upstream and Industry Operations Erik Milito all responded swiftly via statements to decry the decision.
Martin said it “demonstrates the administration’s continued lack of accountability to the American people. It is also one of many recent and rushed attempts to cater to extreme environmentalists in the last days of the administration, substituting politics for science.”
Luthi said: “This decision continues the Obama administration’s dismissal of scientifically-backed offshore policies and ignores the fact that seismic and other geophysical surveys have been safely conducted offshore in the US and around the world for more than 50 years.”
Milito said the announcement was the latest example of the current administration “completely disregarding America’s energy security needs and contradicts the will of the majority of Americans who support increased production of oil and natural gas.”
The Atlantic Ocean outer continental shelf is covered with 2d and 3d seismic data from the Gulf of Mexico, to Baffin Bay and the North Sea with one big gap: The United States east coast. Here’s a link to one geophysical contractor’s (TGS) geological and geophysical data coverage in the Atlantic Ocean. The absence of data on the US Atlantic OCS is as conspicuous as it is ridiculous.
Marine seismic surveys are conducted with overwhelming sensitivity to marine life, particularly cetaceans and the site clearance surveys which will have to be performed for politically favored (at least for another 11 days) offshore wind farms will employ the same sort of airgun sources that would be used for 2d and 3d seismic surveys. So the environmental argument is garbage.
The fact that the Atlantic OCS was withdrawn from the current 5-year leasing plan (which will almost certainly be revised this year) is no reason to not conduct the surveys. Without modern seismic data, there’s no way to evaluate the potential of these areas. The existing data consist of >40-yr old and very sparse 2d surveys shot in the 1970’s. This bit is truly ridiculous:
The BOEM said that additional factors leading to the denials include the possibility that the information would not be used if the Atlantic is not offered for future oil and gas leasing; the acquired data may become outdated if leasing is far in the future; and the probable development of lower impact survey technology before future geophysical and geological information would be needed.
This is akin to saying that ANWR Area 1002 should not be opened because it won’t be brought on production the moment the area is opened.