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.
State Rep. Joel Robideaux, R-Lafayette, surprised few in the Hub City Wednesday afternoon when he made (semi) official what most of us have known for months: He is running to replace Joey Durel as city-parish president.
Louisiana's first black Republican state senator since Reconstruction — who was a Republican before he was a Democrat before he was a Republican again — is accusing Democratic U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu of using the black community for votes and providing nothing in return.
LSU's governing board has backed new hospital privatization contracts that give hospital managers greater ease to leave the deal and fewer restrictions about must-have services.
U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu is courting young voters in several appearances across Louisiana this week, talking about her support for legislation that could lower students' college costs.
Coton de tulear joins Westminster; Paypal splitting from Ebay; first US Ebola diagnosis and more national and international news for Wednesday, October 1, 2014.
Wednesday's Blogs from the Bog!
Stage 4 vet takes on cancer and reminds us all what it really means to get involved.
Is Mary fading as Vitter solidifies his lock on the fourth floor?
Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration has renegotiated contracts for six LSU hospital privatization deals, hoping to reach a compromise with federal health officials that will keep Medicaid dollars flowing to the privatized patient services.
Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu is defending her record on gun rights, seeking to rebut sharp criticism from the NRA in a state where the right to bear arms is given special constitutional protection.
Citizens, you have less than a week to register to vote in the Nov. 4 election. Remember, if you don’t vote you can’t complain about the outcome. Well, you can but it’s kind of hypocritical.
After being forced out by its former landlords last year, the community garden has a new location and a 10-year lease.
The party says it has hit a milestone, reaching 10,000 registered voters in the state.
Defensive captain Junior Galette is disgusted by the Saints' sluggish start.
The use of $60 million in Louisiana's public school financing formula to pay for nearly three dozen charter schools violates the state constitution, a statewide teachers' union claimed Monday in a lawsuit.
February trial date indicates parties were unable to negotiate a settlement.
There was a time when United Ballot had a political stranglehold so tight on Lafayette’s black community it was nearly unbreakable, but that grip might be loosening.
The race for Lafayette city marshal may not be the most exciting of this year’s local political contests, but it could prove the most historic.
With the DA’s race too close to call and negative media coverage of Mike Harson on the ebb, will challenger Keith Stutes take the gloves off?
Gov. Bobby Jindal has been viewed as a health care policy wonk, and he's tried to build on that image ahead of a likely 2016 presidential campaign, positioning himself as the candidate with substantive ideas.
Jerry Jones watched what he called the best effort he's seen in 25 years as owner of the Dallas Cowboys in the first half, and that was before Tony Romo had the longest scramble of his career and DeMarco Murray finished off yet another 100-yard game.
Two of the most recognizable women in Republican politics, Sarah Palin and Mary Matalin, have been heavily involved in Louisiana’s current election cycle.
Even though the Louisiana Democratic Party has thrown its support behind former Gov. Edwin Edwards’ congressional bid, national Democrats are not expected to follow suit.
“[Mike] is no longer the energetic ADA that his recent ad is trying to portray. I just think Mike needs to get the hell out.” — Kermit Harson, DA Mike Harson’s brother
The New Orleans Saints have listed Jonathan Goodwin as questionable for Sunday night's game in Dallas, raising the prospect that second-year pro Tim Lelito will start at center for the first time.