Fourchon could benefit from oil agreement

06 29, 2013 by Houma Courier

Port Fourchon could benefit from recent congressional action seeking to open 1.5 million acres in the western Gulf of Mexico to oil and gas drilling.

The measure approved by the U.S. House of Representatives aims to implement a 2012 deal between the U.S. and Mexico to allow offshore drilling along the countries’ maritime borders. Mexico ratified the agreement, though the Senate has yet to do so.

The so-called Western Gap is believed to hold up to 172 barrels of oil and 304 billion cubic feet of natural gas.

Greater Lafourche Port Commission Director Chett Chiasson said port officials are monitoring the effort.

Port Fourchon serves as a staging point for oilfield companies’ service of rigs and platforms in the Gulf of Mexico.

On any given day, about 270 oilfield service vessels enter or exit the port, according to Chiasson.

Though some Texas ports may be better positioned geographically, Chiasson said Port Fourchon could see additional business if the area is opened because of the existing infrastructure at the port.

“We’re willing to say the administration got this one right,” said Republican Rep. Jeff Duncan of South Carolina, referring to President Barack Obama’s role negotiating the measure. “This is another step toward lessening our dependence on foreign oil.”

The bill saw some controversy as Democrats objected to provisions which exempted American companies from having to disclose payments to foreign governments.

The exemption “would allow big oil companies to make secret deals with the government of Mexico,” said Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore. “Rather than expediting things here, we’re messing them up.”

House Democrats predicted the measure would not pass the Senate with the disclosure waiver included.

Democrats support a Senate version of the bill that would implement the drilling agreement without waiving financial disclosure requirements.

The agreement, signed in February 2012 by then-Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and then-Mexican Foreign Secretary Patricia Espinosa, would end the drilling ban in the Western Gap portion of the Gulf. It would allow U.S. companies to collaborate with the Mexican national oil company, PEMEX, to explore and develop the area.

And it includes provisions for sharing royalties and a joint commitment to safety and environmental protection, including more rig inspections.

The agreement could be followed by others involving maritime boundaries with Canada, Russia, the Bahamas and Bermuda.