Is there even oil out there?

In an interesting twist in the offshore drilling debate, some experts say there isn't even anything worth drilling for off the S.C. coast.

Keep up with stories about offshore drilling on our topic page.Greg Hambrick of Charleston City Paper reports on the development in his blog, but you can also read the AP story itself. Also, The Island Packet on Hilton Head has a more in-depth version on the issue.

Basically, a couple of geologists from College of Charleston say there simply isn't much oil off South Carolina, mainly because of geological factors. So why would oil companies waste money on building rigs, etc., when the payoff would be minimal at best?

From The Associated Press:

"We just don't have the great kind of geology and the shallow enough water," said Cassandra Runyon, a geologist at The College of Charleston.

Oil companies would have to travel 60 miles from shore to reach the outer continental shelf. But even there, conditions weren't right to form oil, Runyon said.


"There's no petroleum" off South Carolina, agreed Mitchell Colgan, who 20 years ago worked for Shell Oil and who now also teaches geology at the College of Charleston.

"There was a little bit of exploration that took place many years ago but there was nothing that showed there was any value. It wasn't economically feasible," he said.

I mean, there's always disagreement among scientists, so no one can say for sure who's right or wrong, but this seems like pretty damning evidence for the argument that we should OK drilling for oil off our coast.

But, if the ban on drilling does get lifted we could see some significant natural gas drilling, as there's likely a good amount of that. The Charlotte Observer reports:
The lawmakers noted that the portion of the Outer Continental Shelf off South Carolina likely holds substantial natural gas reserves, but considerably less oil, according to preliminary analyses.

Government estimates peg the Atlantic's natural gas reserves at some 48 percent of the entire off-limits amount for the lower 48 states; crude oil is only 21 percent. The Atlantic region represents most of the Eastern Seaboard.

It's also worth noting that the area off South Carolina's coast hasn't seen any drilling activity since the early '80s, and newer technology is generally better at finding what little may be there.