The People of America's Oil and Natural Gas Indusry

Ordering Up Increased Offshore Access

Mark Green

Mark Green
Posted April 28, 2017

America’s future energy security – which figures so prominently in the nation’s overall security – is the big winner in President Trump’s newest executive order that aims to increase access to U.S. offshore oil and natural gas reserves. While new energy development in the Arctic, Atlantic and other areas would be down the road, Washington clearly is signaling its new embrace of America’s offshore potential. For the world’s leading producer of oil and natural gas, that’s a big step forward. API President and CEO Jack Gerard:

“Developing our abundant offshore energy resources is a critical part of a robust, forward-looking energy policy that will secure our nation’s energy future and strengthen the U.S. energy renaissance.”

As with executive orders on infrastructure and pipelines and the federal approach to energy regulation, the administration’s latest action seeks to more fully harness America’s oil and natural gas wealth, to make the country more secure and to benefit U.S. consumers.

Onshore, that means increased access to federal lands and greater efficiency in federal permitting. Offshore, it means reversing the government’s recent past of putting more and more of our outer continental shelf off limits to safe energy development. As the map below shows, 94 percent of federal offshore acreage currently is closed to development:

offshore_off_limits

The new executive order could be the start of changing some of those red areas to blue – and in the process strengthening U.S. energy. Details include:

  • The Interior Department is to revise or initiate a new federal offshore leasing plan that considers areas the previous administration closed to development – including the Western and Central Gulf of Mexico, the Mid- and South Atlantic, the Chukchi and Beaufort seas in the Arctic and Alaska’s Cook Inlet.
  • The order encourages federal departments to develop a more streamlined seismic surveying permitting process, to facilitate safely acquiring a precise, scientific understanding of America’s offshore energy reserves.
  • The Interior Department is to consider ways to remove unnecessary burdens from existing regulations and policies that hinder development of offshore energy resources.

President Trump:

“This is a great day for American workers and families, and today we're unleashing American energy and clearing the way for thousands and thousands of high-paying American energy jobs. Our country is blessed with incredible natural resources, including abundant offshore oil and natural gas reserves. But the federal government has kept 94 percent of these offshore areas closed for exploration and production. And when they say closed, they mean closed. … Renewed offshore energy production will reduce the cost of energy, create countless good jobs, and make America more secure and far more energy independent.”

Certainly, the president recognizes the Arctic’s strategic importance. The previous administration’s withdrawal of Arctic areas was ill-advised (map below), considering the Arctic contains the world’s largest remaining undiscovered but recoverable oil and natural gas resources.

arctic_withdrawals

Alaska’s outer continental shelf may hold 48 billion barrels of oil equivalent, with more than 98 percent of it in less than 330 feet of water, where industry already has demonstrated the exploration and production technology to safely operate in the region. The previous administration’s action, which the Trump administration is countering, effectively withdrew the Chukchi and Beaufort seas’ 23.6 billion barrels of oil and more than 104 trillion cubic feet of natural gas from America’s strategic energy portfolio – even as others, Russia and Norway, are moving systematically to develop their Arctic resources.

If the United States is to remain a world leader in oil and natural gas, safe development of its Arctic and other offshore reserves must be part of the mix. The Eastern Gulf of Mexico – not included in the new executive order – is another of those key areas. Mexico and Cuba are seeking to develop energy resources there, and the U.S. should not be an idle bystander to development that’s so close to existing U.S. production and infrastructure. Gerard:

“The U.S. oil and natural gas industry has a long history of safe operations that have advanced the energy security of our nation and contributed significantly to our nation’s economy. And 80 percent of American voters support increased domestic oil and natural gas production. We look forward to continuing our work with the administration and Congress on policies that will fully embrace our nation’s offshore and onshore energy potential to meet the energy needs of American consumers and businesses.”


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mark Green joined API after a career in newspaper journalism, including 16 years as national editorial writer for The Oklahoman in the paper’s Washington bureau. Mark also was a reporter, copy editor and sports editor. He earned his journalism degree from the University of Oklahoma and master’s in journalism and public affairs from American University. He and his wife Pamela live in Occoquan, Va., where they enjoy their four grandchildren.