National Geographic : 1972 Jun
Our continentalshelf. 1 here may be more oil and gas here than has ever been found onshore in the history of the U.S. Prospectslook especially good for discoveries of large volumes of urgently needed naturalgas. produced from offshore fields. Exploring for, and producing, oil and gas offshore is expensive. It costs about four times as much to drill an exploratory well offshore as a similar one on land, and opera tions in deeper waters will cost even more. Why then does the petroleum industry per sist in its underwater search? First of all, there's the matter of supply and demand. Beyond that are vital consider ations of continued economic growth and security of supply. Right now, oil and gas provide three-quarters of America's energy requirements. Meanwhile, the demand for energy continues to increase. Every day, the United States consumes How the United States' demand for energy will almost double by 1985. (SOURCE NATIONAL PETROLEUM COUNCIL) NUCLEAR03% IMPORTEDNAT.GAS5.0% MESTICNAT .GAS120% IMPORTED NATGAS15% eNULEART 0G329% 1970 1985 This is one appraisalof how the U.S. may meet its future energy needs. It assumes coal users will meet air pollution regulations, construction of nuclear plants will accelerate rapidly, and availability of synthetic fuels (e.g ., oil from shale) will be limited. Problem areas may be large oil imports and reduced domestic natural gas supplies. 650 million gallons of petroleum and over 50 billion cubic feet of natural gas. This con sumption is growing so fast, that the United States is expected to use as much petroleum and natural gas in the next fifteen years as it has during the entire 113 years of the oil industry's existence. In the case of natural gas, this estimate is conservative-only because supplies are severely limited. Gas is such a clean, conven ient fuel that its use would grow much faster if it were readily available. Here in the U.S., we are increasingly dependent on offshore areas for natural gas-a fuel which is be coming critically scarce. Overseas imports are not the entire answer, since gas is difficult and expensive to transport in anything other than pipelines. The offshore potential. If the U.S. is to minimize dependence on foreign energy sources, as much of our oil and gas as possible must come from do mestic supplies. But it is increasingly more difficult to find oil and gas reserves on land. That leaves the offshore areas, where the prospects for finding additional oil and gas deposits are quite encouraging. Geolo gists estimate the recoverable reserves of oil underlying our continental shelf may be more than the U.S. has consumed in its his tory. The outlook for natural gas also appears excellent, particularly in undrilled areas along the East Coast. Today, as domestic reserves of oil and gas dwindle in relation to consumption, the offshore search is more urgent than ever. The new adventurers are embarked on a sea venture that can have far-reaching signifi cance for our country and our people.