Safe Seismic Surveying: A Critical Step in Offshore Energy Exploration

With the administration’s intention to permit seismic surveying in the Atlantic Outer Continental Shelf for the first time in 30 years, it’s a good opportunity to better understand the important role safe seismic testing plays in America’s strategic energy picture.

Seismic surveys are critical to offshore energy exploration, which in turn is vital for long-term U.S. energy security. Used by a number of industries, such as offshore wind, as well as many types of scientific research, seismic surveys help identify geologic features beneath the earth’s surface that have the potential of holding natural gas and oil.

Gathering this data allows us to understand what resources may exist in the outer continental shelf, which determines whether companies will take the next step toward developing natural gas and oil.

The most recent natural gas and oil seismic survey data for the Atlantic Ocean is more than 30 years old. In the meantime, the technology used to conduct seismic surveys has advanced significantly and is the key to fully harnessing America’s offshore potential. Currently, 94 percent of federal offshore acreage is off limits to development.

Recent studies confirm that seismic testing will not harm marine animals or coastal communities.  It is highly regulated, and the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) provides careful oversight to keep seismic operations safe. BOEM’s chief environmental officer during the Obama administration wrote that there “has been no documented scientific evidence” of seismic testing adversely affecting marine animal populations or coastal communities.

For eight decades, seismic surveys in the United States have successfully and safely cultivated important data on underground geologic structures, both on land and offshore. Significant time, effort and resources have proven that seismic surveys can be done safely, despite claims by opponents of offshore development.

Offshore natural gas and oil is strategically important to America’s energy security and economic development. Seismic surveying is a safe and important step forward in Exploring Offshore, and the administration’s recent announcement regarding Atlantic seismic surveys is to be applauded.