In 2018, the American Association of Petroleum Geologists published a report recommending that drillers start developing rockers in anticipation of an oil glut.
A few months later, the APG issued a press release saying the agency was recommending that “drying rock is a primary tool for controlling oil in deep waters.”
But it went on to suggest that a lot of drilling in the ocean should be done with “a high degree of caution.”
What do we know about this “high degree of safety” recommendation?
The APG, which is funded by oil companies, said in its press release that it would recommend that companies use “a mix of hydraulic fracturing (fracking) techniques, wellhead containment techniques and high-performance drilling” when working with deep water.
In fact, the study cited a 2015 study from the National Academy of Sciences that concluded that the industry “has a significant responsibility to reduce or eliminate hydraulic fracturing risks in the United States.”
It’s unclear why the APGS, which has a history of advising industry on drilling practices, would recommend caution when it comes to drilling in ocean waters.
“The report makes the claim that oil and gas drilling is ‘safe’ if done with a high degree-of-safety approach, which sounds very reassuring,” says Mark Jacobson, a professor at the University of Maryland, who has written extensively about offshore drilling.
“But the science on the risks of hydraulic drilling in deep water has been poorly understood and has been largely ignored by the drilling industry.”
But the APGs report did offer some recommendations, including requiring that drilling companies conduct a “diving assessment” to see whether there’s any “hazardous or non-hazardous” areas on the wellhead.
The APGs also said that companies should consider how “diverted” the water might be from the drill site, and should consider what “burden and strain” might be on a drilling rig.
But these recommendations aren’t really designed to limit drilling operations in the deep ocean.
Instead, they’re meant to encourage drilling in areas where there are other drilling activities in the area, and to encourage companies to drill in areas with less water and where they don’t need to be concerned about potential contamination.
“It’s not a recommendation to abandon deepwater exploration,” says Jacobson.
“Rather, it’s a recommendation that it should be considered.”
What’s next for offshore drilling?
The question of whether drilling in open water will be possible for the foreseeable future has become an increasingly important issue in the oil and natural gas industry.
In the past year, the industry has faced a barrage of lawsuits in Texas, Colorado, New Mexico, and Florida.
Earlier this year, Texas sued to block a major new oil drilling project off the coast of Alaska, arguing that it was being used for oil exploration.
And in November, an oil company filed suit against the EPA in Texas to block its plans to open up its oil and shale fields to drilling, arguing the agency’s regulations aren’t strict enough.
The oil and chemicals industry says that the new rules are necessary to protect the environment and the health of the public.
But some critics argue that the regulations, while being needed, have the potential to harm the industry and have the opposite effect.
As a result, some states are considering new restrictions on oil and chemical drilling.
And this week, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that he plans to introduce a bill to ban the practice of offshore drilling, saying that it “is not in the public interest to allow companies to exploit offshore drilling sites and the resources associated with it.”
What will happen to offshore drilling when these regulations are enacted?
While there’s no doubt that the oil industry wants to protect its bottom lines and the public’s health, a lot will depend on the timing and the details of the regulations.
The Obama administration put out a plan to develop new regulations to address offshore drilling and related activities by the end of 2019.
The Department of the Interior is developing its own regulations and is working with the industry to ensure they’re up to speed and enforceable.
But that plan is expected to be delayed in the face of the Trump administration’s decision to end the Obama administration’s offshore drilling rule.
If these rules get finalized, they would be the first significant rule changes to the offshore drilling industry in decades.
And while it’s not clear what would happen to companies that don’t follow the regulations and don’t get permits, experts are concerned that if the Obama rules were repealed, some of the most lucrative oil and petrochemical companies could start to abandon drilling in offshore waters.
In 2016, an international body of experts called for “a global moratorium on offshore oil and oil-sands development.”
In an August 2017 report, the U.N. Committee Against Torture called for the “unconditional ban” of all oil and petroleum exploration in “all areas” off the U