Safe Offshore Development is Essential to U.S. Security and Economy
John D. Siciliano
Posted April 2, 2021
Not as noticed in the Biden administration’s halt in new federal natural gas and oil leasing is the possible impact on U.S. offshore production. If the pause were to become a permanent leasing and development ban, nearly 15% of total U.S. oil production could be affected – with significant potential consequences for our country’s energy security and economic growth.
Offshore development not only is critical for our country’s future, it’s safer than ever – underscored by a report issued late last year by the U.S. Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE). Highlights include:
- In 2018 and 2019, the least oil spilled from active exploration and production operations on federal offshore leases in at least 25 years.
- The amount spilled in 2018 and 2019 was less than naturally occurring seepage from the seafloor.
- Zero incidental marine mammal or sea turtle fatalities from offshore production on federal leases since at least 2017.
At any time, these are major achievements. They occurred as federal offshore oil production hit a record 696.9 million barrels in 2019, with industry paying $4.8 billion in bonus, rents and royalty payments to the government – including revenues for the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) – while supporting 345,000 U.S. jobs and contributing $28.7 billion to the economy. Then-BSEE Director Scott Angelle:
“[During 2018-2019], BSEE matched this historic production achievement by driving the best environmental stewardship performance in at least a quarter of a century, as evidenced by a key metric: a decrease in oil volume spilled from active exploration and production activities on federal offshore leases.”
Given this performance, Americans might ask: Why restrict safe, essential offshore production and risk increasing U.S. reliance on foreign oil?
An OnLocation analysis helps highlight these concerns, projecting that under a policy permanently halting federal natural gas and oil leasing and development, U.S. offshore oil production would fall 44% by 2030 and net crude imports would rise by 2 million barrels per day. The likelihood is the U.S. would end up importing oil produced that is less protective of the environment.
Today, U.S. offshore production stands out for its safety and sustainability. After the 2010 Macondo accident, our industry committed to strengthening the safety of offshore development, built on technology, innovation and implementation of best-in-class standards for offshore operations.
The Center for Offshore Safety (COS) was launched to promote continuous safety improvement for offshore drilling, completions and operations through effective leadership, communication, teamwork, independent third-party auditing and certification and disciplined Safety and Environmental Management Systems (SEMS) – a systems-based approach to safety described in API Recommended Practice 75, which was incorporated into BSEE regulations.
Industry’s safety record noted in the BSEE report mentioned above is underscored by the fact the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), the federal government’s watchdog agency, recently removed BSEE from its biennial list of high-risk government operations that need attention from Congress and/or the Executive Branch. BSEE had been on GAO’s list since 2011. GAO:
“The Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) made progress to address problems in the bureau’s investigative, environmental compliance, and enforcement capabilities, and implemented strategic initiatives to improve offshore oversight and internal management.”
Continuously improving offshore safety and environmental protection is critically important to the natural gas and oil industry. Our country needs safe offshore production to be secure in the world, to import less oil from other countries and to advance environmental and climate goals. That’s what we’re doing and plan to keep doing.
About The Author
John Siciliano is a writer for API Global Industry Services’ Marketing and Communications Department. He joined API after 14 years as an energy and environment reporter and editor. Most recently, he was senior energy and environment writer for the Washington Examiner and the Daily on Energy newsletter. He began full-time reporting in Washington in 2001 as a foreign affairs correspondent, also covering national security and defense. His coverage of the Mideast and Saudi Arabia led him to become a full-time energy reporter. He earned a bachelors degree in psychology from Ohio Northern University, and he also holds a Masters of Science degree in education from the Franciscan University of Steubenville.