Offshore Seismic Surveys

Offshore seismic surveys are the first step in exploring for offshore oil and natural gas.   They are used around the world without harm to marine mammals and other sea life.

Why are seismic surveys important?
The last surveys of the Atlantic OCS took place about 30 years ago, making existing resource estimates outdated.  Due to technological advances, the existing estimates of 4.7 billion barrels of oil and 37.5 trillion cubic feet of natural gas are substantial, yet believed to be low because they are so out of date.

Example of newer estimates: In 1987 the Minerals Management Service estimated only 9.57 billion barrels of oil in the Gulf of Mexico.  In 2011, using more recent seismic data and exploratory drilling, that estimate rose to 48 billion barrels of oil — a fivefold increase.

Today, seismic surveys produce sub-surface images, which are much clearer than those from decades ago. New surveys using state-of-the-art techniques and technology would provide a better understanding of the oil and natural gas resource potential in the Atlantic OCS.

3D Seismic Image

Do seismic surveys harm marine creatures?
In the words of the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), “there has been no documented scientific evidence of noise from air guns used in geological and geophysical seismic activities adversely affecting marine animal populations or coastal communities.”

Counter to what some environmental groups have said, seismic surveys do not cause harm to marine populations. 

World-wide seismic surveying activity and scientific research related chiefly to marine mammals has shown no evidence that sound from seismic activities has resulted in physical or auditory injury to any marine mammal species. Likewise, there is no scientific evidence demonstrating biologically significant adverse impacts on marine mammal populations.


Video Explaining Offshore Seismic Surveying

Seismic surveys are a safe and proven technology that help make offshore energy development safer and more efficient.  Governments and the private sector have used this method of exploration in the U.S. and around the world for over 40 years.

In addition to the oil and natural gas industry, seismic surveys are commonly used by the U.S. Geological Survey, the National Science Foundation, and the offshore wind industry.