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The Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce’s Environmental Committee hosted members of the Consumer Energy Alliance on October 30, 2015 to hear an update on the environmental fundamentals and economic development benefits of offshore energy along the Atlantic Coast.
The presentation included updates from a Geophysicist, Oceanographer, Geological Advisor, an energy engineer and others. Each provided an overview of their particular area of expertise. The Chamber’s Board of Directors has adopted a position in favor of energy exploration. The Chamber has not taken a position on offshore drilling.
Among the points made this morning:
The federal government is currently developing a plan to consider leasing options along the Southeast Coast for the timeframe 2018 to 2023. The leases, if permitted, would allow companies to drill for oil and natural gas. There are currently no leases in place or allowed.
If any drilling would occur, it would be 50 miles off shore.
Industry experts believe there is the potential for both natural gas and oil offshore, with the likelihood of natural gas in the Virginia area and the possibility of natural gas and oil along the Carolinas and further south. The US Department of Interior estimates there could be the potential of 8 to 9 billion barrels a year.
The seismic testing permitting process is already well underway and permits will likely be awarded sometime next year. Testing must occur first because it has been more than 30 years since any testing has occurred.
The group showed a short video of an actual test demonstration which clearly showed seismic testing is not loud and will not hurt marine life (Part of the regularly process mandates testing can only occur in certain months and must stop if any schools of fish or marine life is detected in the testing area. The current methodology used for seismic testing is the same process used for determining where to locate offshore wind turbine.
Even if oil is detected and drilling were to occur, it is highly unlikely any new oil refineries would be built. The oil industry has invested heavily in the current oil refineries and it is highly likely they would ship oil recovered to the existing refineries for processing. Regardless, the location of onshore facilities is a local decision that can be determined. If the federal government decides to issue permits for drilling offshore and if seismic testing reveals there are supplies offshore, the earliest drilling would begin is 2035.