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Oil and Gas Development
Oil and gas are among the many natural resources in the Gulf of Mexico. A few decades ago there was little hope for oil drilling in the Gulf, but since the mid-1990s the Gulf has experienced a resurgence in drilling in leased government waters as deep as 3000 meters, and hundreds of miles offshore. The Gulf accounts for 30% of the US offshore oil production and about 23% of the US gas production. In September 2003, the US Minerals and Management Service (MMS) stated that there were 108 exploration wells being drilled in Gulf waters. The MMS additionally reports that there are approximately 4000 oil and gas producing platforms in the Gulf of Mexico’s outer continental shelf with 152 operators currently active. The shelf is a 7.12 billion square km area that begins 5 to 19 km off the coast, stretching from Texas to southwest Florida. Although oil and gas production is contributing significantly to the economic growth of the region, attention is being drawn to the negative environmental effects as a result of the production activities of oil and gas companies in the region.
One aspect of most concern is wetland loss. Oil and gas exploration is partially to blame for Louisiana’s coastal erosion, because it created entry canals and pipelines that eliminated the natural wetlands barrier. Although industry representatives are accepting responsibility for 10 to 20 percent of the problem, conservationists respond with a conflicting data that suggests that oil and gas accounts for 50 to 80% of the overall wetlands loss. Increasingly there has been a growing environmental movement in the region to prevent further expansion and development of oil and gas drilling, especially to the eastern Gulf of Mexico region. Oil spills and the associated damages to marine life, air pollution from offshore rigs and toxic contaminants from drilling fluids and metal cuttings dumped into the sea as byproducts are some of the reasons warranting this growing concern.
To reduce the detrimental effect of oil production and development in the region, oil companies are using computer technology, seismic imaging surveys and remotely monitored sensors to make their operations cleaner and safer. Most of them are also engaged in partnerships with conservation groups to help with restoration and conservation efforts. An example is the Shell Marine Habitat Program, which is a multiyear partnership program with the US Fish and Wildlife Foundation to fund natural resource conservation projects aimed at conserving and protecting the ecosystems of the Gulf of Mexico. Governments and licensing bodies in the region are emphasizing regulations and environmentally friendly production procedures to limit pollution and other undesirable effects from production activities. In the United States, the Minerals Management Service is responsible for the management and control of oil activities in the region in an environmentally sound and safe manner.
Naplenews.com. Viewed on the web on March 2, 2004 at: http://web.naplesnews.com/03/10/naples/e1666a.htm
Onegulf.org. Viewed on the web on March 2,2004 at: http://www.onegulf.org/Value%20of%20the%20Gulf.pdf
Gulf of Mexico - Deepwater Operations and Activities
Keywords: Oil, Gas, Pollution, Environment, Monitoring, Preseravtion
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