The Times-Picayune today reports that the state collected a $93.8 million windfall this week thanks to a boom in land leases by energy companies betting on the Haynesville Shale.

The amount was the highest in 28 years for a Louisiana Mineral Board auction.

Since word began spreading in March of the potential of a major discovery of underground natural gas reserves in northwest Louisiana, gas exploration and production companies have been enriching private property owners, parish governments and the state with large bonuses for the rights to mine gas in the region.

Last month DeSoto Parish filled its coffers with $28.8 million for its public land leases at the Mineral Board auction. Wednesday was the state's turn, with about 4,000 acres of state land at auction. The bonus money will flow into the state general fund, the rainy day fund and to some land-holding state agencies, the newspaper reports. 

Of the properties auctioned Wednesday, the great majority were in the Haynesville Shale region, which includes Caddo, Bossier, DeSoto, Webster, Bienville and Red River parishes.

High prices for natural gas are justifying the relatively expensive method of extraction required for the tough-to-crack shale fields more than 10,000 feet below ground, Louisiana Oil and Gas Association President Don Briggs told The Times-Picauyne.  

Briggs said he was skeptical at first of the optimism surrounding the Haynesville discovery but has become convinced that the potential is real after seeing a number of solid companies putting a lot of money into the gas play. "This is the type of play that could be just as big as they all say it will be," Briggs added.

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