Seismic Industry Applauds U.S. Offshore Expansion

The seismic industry applauds the announcement by Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar, of the Obama Administration's decision to expand oil and gas (O&G) exploration and development on the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf (OCS). As part of its plan, the Administration today called for expanded exploration in frontier areas such as those in The Atlantic and Arctic Oceans, and specifically called for seismic exploration in the mid-Atlantic and south-Atlantic frontier areas.

"Seismic data has not been acquired in these areas of the Atlantic seaboard since the 1980s," said Chip Gill, President of IAGC. "There have been tremendous advances in seismic imaging technology over the last several decades. When applied to these frontier areas, this modern technology will facilitate their efficient and responsible exploration. IAGC members stand ready to support The Administration's strategy with proven technological capabilities, adequate personnel and vessel capacity, and the creative business models needed to fund the acquisition of seismic data in these frontier areas," said Gill.

Today, seismic and other geophysical data acquired utilizing modern technology produce sub-surface images which are much clearer than those from 25 years ago. These high resolution images will be critical to both the Department of Interior's Minerals Management Service (MMS) and oil and gas companies in the evaluation of the resource potential of these new areas. It is this clear sub-surface imaging which will allow for the elimination of areas that are unlikely to be prospective, and will facilitate the orderly, efficient exploration of the energy reserves which exist in these frontier areas.

The frontier areas targeted in the Administration's strategy are very large. Significant lead time will be required to acquire and process this new seismic data before it can be made available to MMS and the oil and gas industry. And they of course will require additional time to assimilate and evaluate this data before it will contribute to their evaluation and exploration efforts. It is therefore important that we start this process as soon as possible.

IAGC members stand ready to do their part, as evidenced by the Atlantic seismic permit applications that are currently pending at MMS. To help ensure the most efficient and timely execution of the Administration’s strategy, IAGC members:

  • Urge MMS to consider processing small scale, limited permit requests. We note that in MMS' January 21, 2009 Federal Register Notice of Intent to prepare a Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement, MMS stated "The PEIS will be completed prior to authorizing any new, large-scale G&G activities on the Atlantic OCS. In the interim, MMS may still consider small scale, limited permit requests…" We continue to be concerned with what appears to be unnecessary delays in delivering the contribution of this modern, high tech data, delays which have been caused by MMS' decisions relative to the processing of these permits.
  • Urge the Administration to ensure the necessary personnel resources and funding are available to both MMS and the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration's National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) to facilitate the most efficient and timely prosecution of the required NEPA, ESA and MMPA assessments, consultations, and rules promulgations.

While seismic contractors believe all areas of the U.S. OCS should be considered for O&G exploration and development, we nevertheless stand in support of the Obama Administration’s strategy and will continue to work with them to help facilitate its successful execution.