Regulation of Pre-lease Exploration

The Geological and Geophysical (G&G) Permitting Process


Pre-lease Exploration Icon

BOEM pre-lease regulations ensure that pre-lease exploration, prospecting, and scientific research operations in Federal waters do not interfere with each other, with existing lease operations, or with other uses on the OCS. Adherence to these regulations ensures that exploration and research activities is conducted in an environmentally safe manner.

Photo of layering sedimentary rocks

Pre-lease permits set forth the region- specific details for each data-gathering activity, including the timing of activity, approved equipment and methods, and other information relevant to each permit.

Information required in the permit application for geophysical activities includes: vessel data, a description of the energy source and receiving array, total energy output,  navigation system to be used, description of final processing, estimated completion date, and a map or chart showing latitude, longitude, block numbers, and total line miles or blocks proposed.

With respect to geological activities, the following types of information are identified in the permit application: description of drilling methods or sampling, equipment to be used, estimated bore holes or sample locations, navigation system, method of sampling, description of analyzed or processed data, estimated completion date, and location information.

After data have been collected by permittees, BOEM has the opportunity to purchase the data for the cost of reproduction.  BOEM may also acquire data that have been collected for scientific research activities for which an approved permit or filing of notice is required.

Seismic Data Cube

BOEM updates annually a summary of historical permit activity and G&G data inventory and makes this information available to the public.  Some notable G&G permit trends include the following: 82 percent of all permits have been issued in the Gulf of Mexico.   Since 1969, approximately 95 percent of permits issued were for geophysical exploration, while only 5 percent were for geological exploration.  While the total number of 3-D permits compared to all permits issued is rather small (<10 percent), over the past 10 years 3-D permits have averaged about 50 percent of all geophysical permits.

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