Offshore drilling may be coming off the East Coast

The Obama administration proposed a plan in Jan. 2015 to allow companies to buy leases of federally owned land for oil and gas exploration in the Atlantic Ocean spanning from the Georgia coast to Virginia. This plan could even lead to seeing the huge oil rigs on North Carolina coast.

Two companies, Spectrum Deo inc. and GX Technology, are trying to start blasting the ocean floor as soon as this spring in search of natural resources.

“There has been like a moratorium or a ban on offshore drilling up the coast and I know that the Obama administration lifted that ban or letting companies explore their options,” said Blair Tormey, coastal geologist and geology lecturer at Western Carolina University.

The beautiful sunset off Wilmington Coast. Photo by Hunter Bryn

The sunset off of the coast of Wilmington, NC.
Photo by Hunter Bryn

There are a few ways that offshore drilling works. First, companies need to figure out if there is natural gas or oil under the ocean floor. They hire research companies to do the pre-work before a rig can be installed.

Casey Davis, Navigation Operator onboard the Oceaninc Sirius, works on one of these research vessel out in the Gulf.

“It is hard to say what is there yet because it has only recently been opened to legally explore that part of the Atlantic. The geographic landscape of that area suggest that there could potentially be oil/gas there,” Davis said.

After the companies decide whether drilling is worth it or not, they install oil rigs to drill for oil. The rigs are placed in the ocean where they have long tubes to go down and drill/collect the product. Oil rigs typically only get put a few miles offshore.

“The pros would be getting our resources closer to home. I would expect that there will be more gas then oil.  We’ve been seeing an onshore gas boom, with drilling that’s been happening in Wyoming and North Dakota. We are enjoying that luxury now with gas prices near two dollars,” Tormey explained.

The benefits of beginning to drill in a new area would be that it would affect the amount of natural resource we produce, which could keep gas prices and other prices low. This could make us less dependent on foreign oil. There has always been a debate about whether the offshore drilling is good or bad.

Davis sees offshore drilling as a good option.

“I am for it. I know the benefits and the potential downfalls of it. But someone in my position can see the advantages, the boost to local economies, jobs influx, and I begin to see the pros outweighing the cons.”

The negatives of offshore drilling is environmental. Drilling can be messy with the potential for massive spills like the British Petroleum [BP] spill in 2011 in the Gulf of Mexico. An accident like that off the coast could devastate the East Coast beaches.

Another direction that getting energy could possibly be green energy or renewable sources. Green energy would include wind powered energy.

“I think any new development of fossil fuels right now is short sighted and [would] get in the way of transitioning to renewable sources of energy. I think we should be putting wind mills offshore there,” said Dr. David Henderson, an environmental ethics professor at WCU.

The debate will continue as companies begin to explore their options and buy leases off the coast of Virginia, Georgia and North Carolina.