How seismic surveying works.

The last scheduled Outer Banks BOEM meeting was held at the Kill Devil Hills Ramada Inn on Monday—this meeting to let the public know where the agency was in issuing permits for surveys that will determine if there is gas and oil reserves worth developing off the North Carolina coast.

The survey, called a seismic survey is considered somewhat controversial. Very loud pulses of sound are emitted to penetrate the earth’s crust, when the sound rebounds it is analyzed and a map of the earth beneath the ocean floor up to 10,000’ deep can be created.

A number of marine scientists have voiced concerns about the process, noting that marine mammals use sound to navigate and communicate. Advocates for the seismic surveying point out there have been no peer reviewed studies showing harm to marine life and that it is the most effective means to map the seabed.

Survey activity off the Outer Banks is probably not imminent. There are a number of procedural steps the companies seeking a permit have to go through, and it appears as though not all of the steps have been taken.

Even after the seismic surveys are completed, it will be a number of years before any oil or gas exploration could occur. The leases will not be sold until 2021, and the permitting process for a well is a complex and time consuming process that includes multiple permits for different activities.