The Obama administration has announced approval of the use of underwater blasts of sound to pinpoint oil and gas deposits in federal waters in the Atlantic Ocean. The announcement, made by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, was received with enthusiasm by the energy industry, but was criticized by environmental groups, fisheries, and the Natural Resources Defense Council as allegedly being detrimental to the administration’s agenda to combat climate change.
The technique involves using underwater sound blasts from sonic cannons towed behind boats which send pulses of sound down to the ocean floor. The blasts reverberate, rebound to the surface, and are captured by hydrophones which translate the results into high-resolution, three-dimensional images of the structures in the Earth that might hold oil and gas. Supporters and oil lobbyists estimate that approximately 4.72 billion barrels of recoverable oil and 37.5 trillion cubic feet of natural gas could lie beneath federal waters in the Atlantic from Florida to Maine. Supporters estimate that the increased oil and gas recovery from this technique could contribute $23.5 billion per year to the economy.
Opponents to sonic cannons claim that the increased noise pollution in the ocean will negatively impact whales and dolphins, which depend on being able to hear to feed, communicate, and keep together with their pods. The sonic cannons are often fired continually for weeks or even month. Some communities have already passed resolutions opposing seismic testing and offshore drilling. The agency approval covers the use of sonic devices offshore in federal waters beyond the reach of state law.
Sonic cannons are already being used in the western Gulf of Mexico, offshore in Alaska, and in other offshore oil operations around the world.
For further information, or for assistance with oil and gas related matters, contact Toni Ellington at (504) 599-8500.