Investing in Offshore Exploration and Technology Development
Oil and natural gas companies are currently facing an unprecedented opportunity to expand offshore drilling efforts. The Trump administration plans to raise existing restrictions on oil and natural gas drilling in the Outer Continental Shelf, which will allow companies to seek leases that were previously unavailable for energy extraction. The efforts are being driven by the newly appointed Secretary of the Interior, Ryan Zinke, who signed two secretarial orders in May 2017 that would pave the way for significant expansion in offshore drilling.1 As oil and gas companies prepare to take advantage of the relaxation in offshore drilling regulations, organizational technologies like electronic laboratory notebooks can support economically and ecologically responsible research efforts.
Expanding Opportunities for Offshore Drilling
Secretarial Order 3550, which Secretary Zinke signed on May 8, 2017, would open up a wide range of offshore drilling sites for consideration by the US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management. While most of the sites in the Outer Continental Shelf that are currently available for drilling are in the Gulf of Mexico, Zinke’s order would expand the range of possibilities to sites off of Alaska, as well as the South and the Mid-Atlantic states. The order also calls for the consideration of expanding the available offshore drilling sites in the Gulf of Mexico.2
As Zinke recently told oil and gas industry leaders at the Offshore Technology Conference in Houston, Texas, the goal of the secretarial order is to enable America’s energy producers to take advantage of the available resources in the Outer Continental Shelf in order to help meet global energy needs. The Outer Continental Shelf consists of 1.7 billion acres, but only 16.9 million acres (less than 1%) are leased for oil and gas development, and only 4.4 million acres are currently producing oil and natural gas. The US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management estimates that the unexplored area of the Outer Continental Shelf contains about 90 billion barrels of undiscovered, recoverable oil and 327 trillion cubic feet of undiscovered, recoverable natural gas.
Exploring Offshore Drilling Sites
Companies will also be faced with research challenges as they prepare to invest in these sites. It will be important to evaluate the newly opened areas to identify which are the most feasible for oil and natural gas extraction. It may also be helpful to tweak existing drilling technologies in order to optimize them for the new environments and make sure that ecological soundness is preserved as much as possible. As research efforts on the Outer Continental Shelf get underway, there are several ways in which organizational tools like electronic laboratory notebooks (ELNs) can help oil and gas researchers make the most of the new opportunities for responsible development:
- Collaboration between offshore and onshore researchers. One of the benefits of ELN technology is that it enables fast communication between researchers in remote locations. As field researchers and environmental experts explore the elements of the Outer Continental Shelf, they can quickly relay their results to lab scientists on shore, who can use the information to develop technologies that are optimized for drilling in those locations.
- Comparing data between sites. The organizational capabilities of ELNs make it easy to compare research data across drilling sites. That will make it possible for researchers to compare the conditions of the Outer Continental Shelf with those at current drilling sites, and also to look at the similarities and differences between sites they are considering in the Outer Continental Shelf. This can make it easier to determine which sites have the greatest potential.
- Long-term data storage. Although the opening of the Outer Continental Shelf presents significant opportunities for the oil and gas industry, it is important to note that Secretary Zinke’s secretarial order calls for a five-year plan, so the opening of the Outer Continental Shelf will likely occur over a period of months and years. ELNs make it easy to locate and access old data, so researchers won’t have to worry about finding data that they collected at any point in what is likely to be a long process of expansion.
Responding to Regulatory Changes in the Oil and Gas Industry
Not only does the new administration plan to lift restrictions on leasing acreage in the Outer Continental Shelf, but it is also likely that other regulations on oil and natural gas drilling will be lifted. Electronic lab notebooks provide a valuable organizational tool that can be used to keep track of regulations as they change, making it easier to ensure compliance with the existing rules while taking a proactive lead on lifted restrictions.
BIOVIA offers innovative Electronic Lab Notebooks that can support oil and gas research efforts in the Outer Continental Shelf and beyond. Contact us today to learn more about this and our other software offerings.
- “Secretary Zinke signs orders implementing America-first offshore energy strategy,” May 2, 2017, https://www.doi.gov/pressreleases/secretary-zinke-signs-orders-implementing-america-first-offshore-energy-strategy ↩
- “Unlocking the Atlantic Shelf,” May 15, 2017, http://www.ogj.com/articles/print/volume-115/issue-5b/regular-features/journally-speaking/unlocking-the-atlantic-shelf.html ↩