Sample Geology Paper on The Gulf of Mexico

  1. Introduction

The Gulf of Mexico region is responsible for managing oil and mineral resources in the Gulf Region and Atlantic region. The area managed by the Gulf of Mexico Region spans over a region of 430 million acres, comprising of seven planning areas. 97% of all OCS oil and gas production in America is generated from the Gulf’s central and western planning areas as well as regions of Mississippi, Texas, Louisiana and Alabama. In total, the Gulf of Mexico oil production accounts for 17% of total U.S. crude oil production (“Gulf of Mexico Fact Sheet”, 2017). The natural gas production of the gulf region, on the other hand, accounts for 5% of the United States’ dry production (“Gulf of Mexico Fact Sheet”, 2017). These regions remain the country’s primary offshore source of gas and oil. With the Gulf region having the capacity to produce enough gas and oil to support energy requirements of the U.S., the importance of the region in terms of offshore energy resources is unquestionable. The purpose of this essay is to analyze the gulf region with reference to technologically recoverable resources, production capacity, revenues collected by federal government, environmental concerns and regulatory mechanisms, among other aspects.

  1. Oil and Gas Resources in the OCS of the Gulf

It is estimated that there are approximately 3.67 billion barrels of oil and 9 trillion cubic feet of gas that are yet to be exploited (Kazanis, Maclay & Shepherd , 2015). These resources are distributed over 667 active fields. These are the resources that can be discovered, that are recoverable, commercial and existent. In addition to these, there is an estimated 3.3 billion barrels of oil and 11.3 trillion cubic feet of gas resources in leases that are yet to qualify. Cases of failing to qualify occur in the event that the lessee fails to commit to developing a project and in fields that have expired, relinquished or terminated without any production being realized. As of December 2013, cumulative production of resources accounted for 18.52 billion barrels of oil and 184 trillion cubic feet of gas from the fields. It is estimated that oil reserves decreased by 13.5 percent between 2012 and 2013. It is expected that, as more drilling and development processes occur, additional volumes may be reportable.

Figure 1: a break-down of resource reserves available in the Gulf of Mexico region

Statistics on the areas leased for exploration are provided by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management. As of October 2nd 2017, a total of 15 million acres had been leased. These were distributed as: 28.6 million acres in the western planning area, 66.4 million acres in the central planning area, and 64.4 million acres in the eastern planning area. Out of these, the Central planning area had the largest number of leases at 2,359, with the eastern region having the least at 37. This indicates that the central region has the highest concentration of leases, indicating that it is the most favorable region for exploration activities. This is supported by the visual presentation below, which showcases the central region as the region with the most active leases. Indeed, out of 50 sections in the Central Planning Area, the only areas that had not been leased were Amery Terrace, Lund, and Lund South. On the contrary, out of the 25 sections that constituted the Eastern Planning Area, the areas that had been leased were The Elbow, Lloyd Ridge, Destin Dome, and Apalachicola.

  1. Environmental concerns and Regulatory Mechanisms

Marine oil spills are commonplace in the oil and gas exploration and development industry.   Oil spills commonly occur as a result of accidents during the transportation of oil by water or in the event that oil is being excavated under water, thus causing pollution. Oil spills are known to be caused by lenient regulations and inattentive operations. These factors have been linked with the largest oil spill in history, which occurred in the Gulf of Mexico in April 2010. The incident, known as the Deepwater Horizon oil spill was characterized by an explosion on the floating oil rig, which caused oil to flow directly into the ocean for close to three months (Crone & Tolstoy, 2010). Unavoidably, the oil spill had adverse effects on the marine ecosystem of the gulf region. Subsequent investigations into the incident revealed that the oil spill would not have occurred if precautionary measures were taken by the companies involved, namely BP and Hyundai Heavy Industries (Crone & Tolstoy, 2010). In response to the catastrophe, the U.S. government charged the companies involved responsible for clean up and recovery efforts for restoring the marine ecosystem of the gulf region as well as compensating the communities affected (Crone & Tolstoy, 2010).

The Bureau of Safety and Environment Enforcement stipulates that the risks of working offshore can be identified and avoided. However, if a risk is improperly identified and avoided, it can bring about catastrophic incidents with multiple fatalities. Recently, these catastrophic incidences have been effectively mitigated as a result of advances of technology that facilitate drilling activities while enabling satellite controlled navigation and real-time monitoring (“Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act”, 2016). Moreover, obtaining lessons from prior incidences, including those that involve fires and explosions, can reduce the chance of repeated recurrences.

The Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act (GOMESA) of 2006 aims at facilitating leasing activities and revenue sharing in the Gulf of Mexico. GOMESA notably shares revenues for leasing activities in Gulf States as well as the Land and Water Conservation Fund for coastal restoration projects (Crone & Tolstoy, 2010). GOMESA also prohibits oil and gas leasing close to the coastline of Florida, as well as a section of the Central Planning Area. GOMESA also allows companies to exchange existing leases to enjoy bonuses and royalty credits which can be used on other GOM leases.

  1. Future Development Prospects

It has been suggested that the energy resources in the Gulf of Mexico are limited and should be protected from further exploitation, lest they are depleted (Ewing et al., 1971). Currently, the gulf supplies 17% of crude oil to the United States, a figure which may increase if the over 5,000 leases will increase. It is upon the federal government to control exploitation of natural resources while regulating unsustainable mining activities in order to protect the future of the Gulf of Mexico. To make this possible, the federal government should seek alternatives for providing oil and gas resources for the country, given that the gulf resources are already overwhelmed.





“Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement – Annual Report 2016”. (2017). U.S. Department of the Interior Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement.    Accessed on October 25, 2017. Available at:   

“Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act (GOMESA)”. (2016). Bureau of Ocean Energy       Management. Accessed on October 25, 2017. Available at:

Crone, T. J., & Tolstoy, M. (2010). Magnitude of the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil        leak. Science330(6004), 634-634.

Ewing, J. I., Edgar, N. T., & Antoine, J. W. (1971). Gulf of Mexico. New Concepts of Sea            Floor Evolution: Regional Observations Concepts4, 321.

Kazanis, E. G., Maclay D. M. & Shepherd, N. (2015). Estimated Oil and Gas Reserves Gulf         of Mexico OCS Region December 31, 2013. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management.            Accessed on October 25, 2017. Available at:       036/