What Countries Have Offshore Drilling?

Offshore oilrigs are often close to shore to avoid deeper, more dangerous ventures.
Offshore oilrigs are often close to shore to avoid deeper, more dangerous ventures. (Image: Jupiterimages/liquidlibrary/Getty Images)

Offshore drilling refers to the pursuit and extraction of underwater oil and natural gas deposits. Demand for oil and gas as energy sources increased incrementally following the Industrial Revolution, and by the turn of the 20th century, offshore production was being pursued. Some offshore drilling fields have been producing for more than a century; others are deemed off limits by governments.

Offshore Drilling in North America

The first submerged oil wells were drilled in the Great Lakes of the Midwestern United States during the late 1800s. Shortly afterward, projects were undertaken near Santa Barbara off the coast of California. Canada chose to drill beneath the Great Lakes around 1900, and drilling in the Gulf of Mexico was undertaken in the 1910s. Today, in fields off the shore of Canada's east coast lie oilfields in Newfoundland and Nova Scotia.

Offshore Drilling in South America

With no other place on Earth more rich in natural resources than South America, it is no surprise that massive concentrations of offshore drilling rigs make their home along its coasts. The Campos and Santos Basins in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Brazil combine to produce well more than a million barrels of oil daily. Brazilian oil and gas conglomerate Petrobras operates most of South America's offshore drilling operations.

Offshore Drilling in Asia

Like the United States, many Asian countries in 2011 are net importers of oil and natural gas. Commodities prices began to surge in the early 2000s, inspiring offshore exploration in Southeast Asia. Offshore fields near Australia and New Zealand are the primary targets of the latest exploration. Russia has long been a major offshore producer, particularly off the east coast of Sakhalin.

Offshore Drilling in the Middle East and Africa

Much of the world's oil comes from the Middle East, and the Persian Gulf is home to some of the richest offshore fields. Saudi Arabian company Saudi Aramco operates a large portion of the area. Major fields include Safaniya, Manifa and Marjan. Offshore drilling also takes place off the west coast of Africa, notably near Nigeria and Angola.

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