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Chapter 21 - Offshore Hydrocarbon Industries

from Assessment of Other Human Activities and the Marine Environment

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  18 May 2017

United Nations
Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea, Office of Legal Affairs
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Scale and significance of the offshore hydrocarbon industries and their social and economic benefits.

Location of offshore exploration and production activities

Offshore oil and gas exploration and development is focused in specific geographic areas where important oil fields have been discovered. Notable offshore fields are found in: the Gulf of Mexico (Fig. 1); the North Sea (Fig. 2); California (in the Santa Barbara basin); the Campos and Santos Basins off the coast of Brazil; Nova Scotia and Newfoundland in Atlantic Canada; West Africa, mainly west of Nigeria and Angola; the Gulf of Thailand; off Sakhalin Island on the Russian Pacific coast; in the ROPME/RECOFI area and on the Australia's North-West Shelf.


According to the United States of America National Research Council (2003) in a snapshot of the global offshore oil and gas industry, there were (in 2003) more than 6,500 offshore oil and gas installations worldwide in 53 countries, 4,000 of which were in the United States Gulf of Mexico, 950 in Asia, 700 in the Middle East and 400 in Europe. These numbers are constantly changing as the industry expands and contracts in different places in response to numerous factors involved in the global energy market. An indicator of this volatility is that by 2014 there were only 2,410 rigs in the United States Gulf of Mexico, for example.

Global crude oil production is currently 84 million barrels per day (BPD; CIA Factbook, 2012 figures) of which about 33 per cent is from the offshore (Fig. 3). Data compiled by Infield (2014) indicate that onshore crude production plateaued at around 65 million BPD as early as the 1990s and growth in offshore production has accounted for most of the increased global productivity since then. Production from deep water (>100 m water depth and as deep as 2,900 m at Shell Oil's “Stones” field in the Gulf of Mexico) platforms accounted for about 1 per cent of production in 2000 but this figure had increased to 7 per cent by 2010 and is anticipated to reach 11 per cent of total global production by 2015 (Infield, 2014; Fig. 3).

The First Global Integrated Marine Assessment
World Ocean Assessment I
, pp. 333 - 352
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2017

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