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 circumstances surrounding the death last March while in the backseat of a sheriff’s cruiser of Victor White III, long a source of dispute by White’s family, have earned an investigation by federal officials.
With six of the LPSB’s nine members poised for Pat Cooper’s termination, a request was filed Tuesday for a fast-tracked hearing on the federal lawsuit calling for the disqualification of two board members from voting on the matter due to bias.
Louisiana's Republican Party has filed a complaint against Democratic U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu with the Senate's ethics committee about her use of private chartered planes.
An attorney signs up to run against LPSB's Mark Cockerham, and within a week a lawsuit is filed by a former LPSS employee in an attempt to disqualify him. Coincidence?
The Ragin’ Cajuns got off to a superb start Saturday night, and the Human Jukebox made the soaked season opener even sweeter for the third-largest crowd in Cajun Field history.
The Louisiana health department will follow a federal judge's order and refrain from immediately penalizing doctors who are trying to comply with a new abortion law that requires them to obtain admitting privileges at a local hospital, a spokeswoman said Monday.
While bogged down with qualifying candidates last month, Secretary of State Tom Schedler didn’t lose sight of the true endgame coming in November and December.
Tuesday's Blogs from the Bog!
Stoned driving a concern when pot is legal; Detroit's bankruptcy trial; speed trap scandal in Florida and more national and international news for Tuesday, September 02, 2014.
A federal jury found attorney Daniel Stanford guilty Friday afternoon on eight of 13 counts for his role in the Curious Goods conspiracy.
Lafayette City-Court Judge Francie Bouillion has served on the bench for two decades since winning a special election to replace Judge Kaliste Saloom when he retired in 1994.
The magazine's senior football writer also predicts a break-out year for Saints fourth-year running back Mark Ingram.
Gulf Coast ceremonies marking the ninth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina have begun.
The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries says there is little known about the effects of tiger prawns on indigenous Louisiana shrimp. But, officials say the reports they're seeking will help state biologists monitor the distribution of the prawns and determine the possible presence of spawning populations.
Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh rested his regulars and watched with delight as Ray Rice's backups ground out 214 yards rushing in a 22-13 victory over the New Orleans Saints on Thursday night.
High-profile criminal defense attorney Daniel Stanford awaits his fate in the Curious Goods conspiracy trial.
The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries is set to put the kibosh on the legal ownership of monkeys trained to help the disabled, and the agency wants to know what you think.
A federal judge on Thursday asked lawyers battling over Louisiana's new, restrictive abortion law for an agreement that apparently could let clinics stay open — at least for a while — after the law takes effect Sept. 1.
An abortion rights organization wants a federal judge to block enforcement of Louisiana's new abortion law while its lawsuit to overturn the law makes its way through court.
Republican presidential prospects Ted Cruz and Bobby Jindal are planning to speak at an Iowa Christian conservative event in September.
The attention surrounding Victor White III has spiked with the release of last week’s autopsy report, which has raised a number of serious questions about the night of his death and has put the Iberia Parish Sheriff’s Office under an increased wave of scrutiny as more national media outlets are jumping on the story, most recently seen on MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show.
A group supporting taxpayer-funded private school tuition vouchers is appealing a federal judge's order that Louisiana must provide regular reports to federal officials on the state's voucher program.
The Discovery Channel has canceled reality TV star Will Hayden's popular "Sons of Guns" show after his arrest on an aggravated rape charge.
The LPSB will finally hear from the attorney it hired to investigate the superintendent at a special meeting Thursday at 4 p.m.
Authorities are investigating a report that a student there warned the principal of impending violence similar to that depicted in the movie "The Purge."