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.
Local and state agents Thursday night raided The Keg, the popular college bar located in the area known as The Strip, leading to the (at least) temporary closure of the venue.
Here's your daily look at late-breaking national and international news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Friday, April 18, 2014:
Friday's Blogs from the Bog!
Time and time again, the Lafayette Parish School Board shows an overwhelming tendency toward idiocy, but Wednesday night’s contentious discussion over Northside High School’s teen mother program tops the list of dumb discussions.
“The accomplishment of this goal within the next ten years is not only critical for the region to effectively compete with other regions for residents and businesses, but also to provide an amenity for everyone in Acadiana to enjoy.”
Education Superintendent John White says a continued push to try to keep Louisiana from using tests associated with the Common Core education standards are creating "a state of chaos" for public school teachers.
Gov. Bobby Jindal's plan to use $210 million in surplus and one-time money to help balance next year's budget received the backing Thursday of the State Bond Commission, support that was needed for the maneuver to work.
State wildlife and fisheries agents have arrested a 39-year-old man accused of stealing crawfish.
An East Feliciana Parish lawmaker has jettisoned his proposal to make it harder for a condemned prisoner to appeal a death sentence.
Senators advanced a proposal Wednesday that would let the governor remove New Orleans-area levee board members for violating what he considers to be public policy, despite concerns it would introduce political meddling into state flood protection.
The Lafayette City-Parish Council on Tuesday will vote on a resolution that if approved would clear the way for a December ballot proposition asking voters to approve a 1-cent sales tax parishwide to help fund the construction of a new terminal at Lafayette Regional Airport.
Just days before the fourth anniversary of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster and oil spill, the Coast Guard has moved cleanup of Louisiana's coast to a new phase, allowing BP to end its "active" efforts in the area.
Legislators still must leave their guns at the door of the Louisiana Capitol.
Sen. Fred Mills may have an "R" behind his name, but his actions in the Louisiana Legislature transcend the established boundaries of his party.
The Louisiana House overwhelmingly rejected a repeal of the state's unconstitutional anti-sodomy law Tuesday.
The Louisiana Senate sided with Gov. Bobby Jindal and the oil industry Tuesday, agreeing to void a lawsuit that a south Louisiana flood board filed against more than 90 oil and gas companies for coastal damage.
Acadian rep notifies would-be supporters that an April 25 fundraiser for the embattled U.S. rep won’t go on as planned.
While it isn’t all too unusual for public bodies to have hired security present during meetings, the LPSB’s push to do so is arguably a response to the antics of one board member.
“I’m running. Why would I be raising all this money? Just to have to return it to people?”
With incumbent U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu watching from afar, and with a united Democratic Party in her corner, the fight to get the GOP officially behind Congressman Bill Cassidy is gaining just as much momentum as it is hushed controversy.
15th Judicial District Judge Durwood Conque has announced that he will not seek re-election after 27 years on the bench.
The controversial standardized tests are set to be used in third-grade through eighth-grade public school classrooms next year.
The Louisiana Senate has agreed to prohibit unmanned aircraft from flying over chemical plants, water treatment systems, telecommunications networks and other items considered "critical infrastructure" in Louisiana.
It didn’t take long for KATC TV 3 to jump all over the news of a dead body found in Girard Park, but in its rush to produce headlines, the local TV station got sloppy.
An unholy trinity of civil-society upheavalers whose first names are not Conner, Tanner or Logan are facing charges in Eunice.