How about a mental visual: Where there were once 17 rigs drilling in north Louisiana in 1997, there are now 60. Meanwhile in the swampy south, 81 rigs have become 53 over the past decade.
The flow of business is easy to track: Land rigs in the south are being relocated to the north, where prospects are bright, and Gulf outfits have been slowly closing up shop in the face of increased costs. "There has obviously been a significant shift of drilling resources in the state," says Mike French, DNR's technology assessment director. "We're seeing everything move out of the Gulf and further north. We also see a 67 percent increase, mostly from natural gas, in the northern part of the state, a region that is the oldest and most drilled up already."
"It's really another state boom up there," he adds.
French describes the scenario as unique to Louisiana, since most other states are "experiencing significant drilling everywhere." Largely, high prices are driving the explosion of activity in north Louisiana, he says, while a slow recovery from the 2005 hurricane season is plaguing coastal parishes.
Don Briggs, president of the Louisiana Oil and Gas Association, a trade and advocacy group, says Louisiana's newfound obsession with natural gas parallels national statistics. According to Baker Hughes, of the 1,781 rigs operating in the U.S., 1,483 are seeking gas over oil. "There's a whole new gas play in north Louisiana," Briggs says, "and while the region has a long history, it's not all drilled up. The drilling is going deeper than ever before: 8,000 to 12,000 feet. Because of high prices, it has become economical to do business up there. If prices stay up, this trend could continue."
As for the Gulf's drilling depression, Briggs argues it has very little to do with hurricanes. He said the number of Gulf rigs has been steadily decreasing because there are "greener pastures out there" and the gulf has become "the number one most expensive place to drill in the world." But it won't last forever. "You're going to see all of that change here before long," he says. "The independents and huge majors are finding deepwater drilling in other parts of the world to be unfriendly, as far as the geopolitics. The Gulf of Mexico is politically stable," as compared to the unpredictable nature of foreign locales like Venezuela, where oil fields were recently nationalized.
Additionally, Briggs predicts the eastern Gulf will soon be opening up and the drilling response could be unprecedented.
These are strange times for Louisiana's energy sector. During a time when state officials are asking for billions of dollars to implement coastal restoration, hurricane protection and flood control projects, the state fiscal numbers are looking better than ever. A money committee recently found another $1 billion surplus, and an increase in royalty sharing with the feds will soon start providing millions on an annual basis.
To add to the heap, the state Mineral Board recently reported that the state's income from oil and gas royalties was $522.5 million, an all-time high, and that the state's total income from bonus, leaseholder, and interest payments was $600.1 million, the highest since 1982. "These figures coupled with severance tax income (not yet completed), and increases in drilling activity, all suggest that times of growth and prosperity are upon us," says Department of Natural Resources Secretary Scott Angelle.
Not everyone is jumping for joy. Many, including Republican state Treasurer John Kennedy, believe Louisiana is partly enjoying a false economy, and the bubble will eventually burst. It's just a matter of time, as oil and gas prices won't stay in the air forever.
David Dismukes, a professor at the LSU Center for Energy Studies, says record royalty income has been driven not only by just high prices, but by increased production as well. The fact that lease sales are generating record income indicates that the industry views Louisiana in a more attractive light today for future energy investments. "These numbers certainly support the conclusion that Louisiana's proactive resource policies, which have streamlined permitting, eliminated waste, and reduced legal and regulatory uncertainty are paying big dividends," he says.
The fight to clean up Lafayette Parish could get some added ammunition with two ordinances up for votes Tuesday by the City-Parish Council targeting litter-bugs.
By striking a deal to lessen the blow of health insurance changes on state workers, school employees and retirees, Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration lowered the volume of criticism but gave itself and local school boards a new budget headache.
With the airport tax coming up for a parishwide vote in about a week, the Broussard City Council and its mayor have come out in support of the proposal.
Protesters rallied peacefully in several Louisiana cities in the wake of the Missouri grand jury decision not to indict a police officer in the fatal shooting of Michal Brown.
US cities bidding on Olympics; Guard prevents more Ferguson riots; storm threatens travel and more national and international news for Wednesday, November 26, 2014.
Wednesday's Blogs from the Bog!
The U.S. rep billed LSU for work allegedly performed on the same days Congress voted on major legislation and held important committee hearings on energy and the ACA.
Abysmally low participation by the public has prompted the council to scuttle the 2014 survey with plans to simplify it and try again next year.
The village now says the ordinance will likely be overturned and authorities will more vigorously enforce existing leash laws.
Bill Cassidy cast an early ballot Tuesday, seeking to draw renewed attention to a race that has fallen off newspaper front pages and away from people's minds as they plan holiday meals and shopping schedules.
Battered all night by Baltimore's relentless pass rush, Drew Brees could feel his protection collapsing and Terrell Suggs getting ahold of him as he urgently unloaded a pass to the right flat toward tight end Jimmy Graham.
After a convincing defeat at the polls on Nov. 4, Earl “Nickey” Picard has decided to let bygones be bygones with his former right-hand man Brian Pope, announcing his support for his former employee’s runoff bid to become Lafayette’s next city marshal.
Saturday the athletic department did everything possible to ensure the 2014 Ragin’ Cajun seniors remembered fondly their last home game. Rain and lightning never arrived but turbulence did in the form of the Appalachian State Mountaineers.
Even stranger than the Republican Party’s decision to hold a “unity rally” earlier this month for Congressman Bill Cassidy in a Baton Rouge bar, Huey’s Bar, was the fact that the establishment was named after Louisiana’s most famous Democrat.
Bar Code is not a gay bar.
After failing to pass a medical marijuana bill last year, state Sen. Fred Mills, R-Parks, is telling supporters he will return in 2015 with legislation that focuses on different applications like oils and pills.
Voters, obviously, are not yet tuned into the 2015 ballot, despite the intriguing races it will host.
By now, the story of how longtime LSU coach Dale Brown discovered Shaquille O'Neal has been told many times: Brown happened upon a massive 13-year-old at an army base in Germany, stayed in touch with him and eventually became like a second father.
Fate simply wasn't ready to give the New Orleans Saints a break from longtime nemesis Steve Smith.
Lafayette Police have had a busy day.
Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration will use $130 million in patchwork financing from a tax amnesty program, insurance settlement, uninsured motorist penalties and other excess funds to close most of the state's midyear budget deficit.
Democratic U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu said she disagrees with President Barack Obama's actions on immigration, hoping the latest controversy doesn't worsen her campaign difficulties.
Gay-rights advocates challenging Louisiana's same-sex marriage ban announced Thursday that they have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review their case before it is heard by a federal appeals court.
Thinking himself the “son of God,” the man charged with the 2013 killing of an officer of the Chitimacha Tribal Police will not stand trial following a ruling Thursday on his mental competency.
Either Saints coach Sean Payton doesn't want to tip Baltimore off as to who'll start in New Orleans' secondary on Monday night, or he really doesn't know yet.