Office of Fossil Energy

DOE Research Helping to Reduce Risks of Offshore Oil, Gas Development

September 29, 2017

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The United States has abundant offshore oil and gas resources, particularly in the Gulf of Mexico. In fact, in 2016, oil production from the Gulf accounted for 19 percent of total U.S. crude oil production and six percent of total U.S. natural gas production. Offshore resources are an important part of our nation’s energy portfolio.

However, accessing our offshore resources can be very difficult. The offshore environment is highly complex and extremely challenging. Pursuit of offshore resources is moving to deeper and deeper water at sites located further and further offshore.

To get to our deepwater and ultra-deepwater resources, we have to send drillships miles offshore and positon the drill on the seafloor under two or three miles of water. Once on the seafloor, the drill must penetrate and maintain a stable connection with the drillship on the surface while drilling for miles through rock to the target oil zone. It must avoid geologic hazards such as unexpected high pressure. Further, the umbilical between the seafloor and the drillship is subject to currents, and even onshore, the drilling process depends on maintaining control of the well so as to avoid oil spills, fires, and explosions.    

The Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Fossil Energy (FE) supports research to make offshore drilling and production easier and safer, with a focus on “spill prevention” rather than “spill response” or “spill cleanup.”

DOE has conducted research ranging from the topside to the seafloor to prevent potential offshore incidents. We are improving the ability to predict geologic hazards and are collecting data in real-time while drilling, in order to better monitor the location of the drill bit. This research continues to be a key factor in reducing risks so we can safely and reliably develop our offshore oil and gas resources.

To learn more about DOE’s oil and gas research, please visit our website.