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Drilling wastes: are primarily composed of cuttings and muds, are the most substantial discharge during exploratory drilling. Drilling mud is used to control subsurface pressures, lubricate the drill bit, stabilize the well bore, and carry the cuttings to the surface, among other functions. The compositions of cuttings is determined by the rock being drilled and often contain heavy metals such as mercury, lead, cadmium and zinc, sometimes they contain naturally occurring radioactive materials as well.

Drilling muds vary in composition but can be either synthetic based muds, water based muds or oil based muds. Drilling muds often contain bentonite, barite, biocides, and anticorrosion agents. While the content of drilling muds and cutting varies, they are typically saturated with hundreds of different substances and compounds and according to Russian scientist, Dr. Patin, their discharge into the sea is one the main ecological threats during offshore oil production. For more information about the ecotoxicological effects of the various drilling fluids check out Patin, 1999.

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Produced waters:
are the water which is produced during the production of hydrocarbons. Produced waters typically include formation water, brine, injection water and other technological waters. All of these waters are usually polluted by oil, inorganic salts, and trace metals but the composition varies between oil fields and can be difficult to predict.

Produced waters are one of the main sources of oil pollution in area of offshore oil and gas production. For example in the North Sea produced waters are responsible for 20% of all oil discharged from the oil and gas activity in the region. The volumes of produced waters created and released into the ocean increase as an oil field ages.

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Seismic testing:
is the first stage of exploration and is a technique used to locate potential offshore oil and gas reserves. Seismic testing requires shooting high pressure sound waves into the ocean that are directed at the seabed. The activity is thought to be highly invasive because of the intense noise it introduces in the marine environment. There are international scientific concerns regarding the impacts of seismic testing on marine mammals, fish, and other marine life.

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