Consumer demand for fuel has been increasing, putting serious pressure on oil companies to find new sources; and so they have turned to the deep sea (Davies et al. 2007). Deep sea exploitation began in the Gulf of Mexico in 1979, the number of drillings have increased there exponentially since this time.
In some cases however Lophelia reefs have shown resilience and have been seen growing on oil rig pipelines in the North Sea (figure 10) (Bell & Smith 1999, Gass & Roberts 2006). The main problem though arises where reefs are close to mud discharge pipes during the drilling process; these are the only reefs that cannot benefit from the dispersal affects of ocean currents. Evidence of contamination has been seen in reefs and some are suffering upwards of 30% polyp mortality (Gass & Roberts 2006).
These developments suggest that drilling could have detrimental effects on the diversity of these reefs and could further damage them with the release of heavy metals (Roberts et al. 2009). There is also the obvious damage to corals when these pipelines are laid down (Freiwald et al. 2004).