Offshore drilling is a mechanical process where a wellbore is drilled below the seabed. It is typically carried out in order to explore for and subsequently extract petroleum which lies in rock formations beneath the seabed. Most commonly, the term is used to describe drilling activities on the continental shelf, though the term can also be applied to drilling in lakes, inshore waters and inland seas.
Offshore drilling presents environmental challenges, both from the produced hydrocarbons and the materials used during the drilling operation. Controversies include the ongoing US offshore drilling debate.