Our View: Local oil & gas industry pumps lifeblood to nation

09 26, 2014 by Tri-Parish Times

When an outsider thinks of southeast Louisiana staples, fishing our areas bayous, swamps and ponds comes to mind. The wonderfully delicious seafood our area provides certainly comes up. And who doesn’t love a trip to French Quarter – the heart of one of America’s most cultured cities?

But maybe the most important element of southeast Louisiana is one that largely goes unnoticed to the outside world – our vibrant and booming oil and gas industry.

Surely the tens of thousands of local residents who put food on the table by fueling America don’t take the oil and gas industry for granted. But it would be doubtful to show up very high on a Family Feud-type survey.

And that’s just fine to them as long as industry keeps chugging along.

It’s no secret that one of the best ways to determine the success of an economy is to take a look at sales tax figures. When people have discretionary income, they spend more. When they don’t, retailers suffer. It’s not rocket science. Rather, it’s marine science.

In Terrebonne and Lafourche parishes, sales tax figures are soaring to new levels. From 2013 to 2014, Terrebonne saw a better than 10 percent increase in sales tax revenue, and Lafourche saw a 4.2 percent increase in that time frame.

These revenue increases are at least partially responsible for infrastructure and recreation improvement in both parishes.

Louisiana’s – and America’s for that matter – gateway to the Gulf (and all of the resources that lie within it) Port Fourchon is estimated to have about $295 million in investments for the 2015 calendar year. Early figures show the small in size but large in importance southern Lafourche port will have similar financial investments in 2016 as well.

Investments are also booming offshore, where oil and gas experts say the Gulf of Mexico rig count at 40 isn’t just above pre-oil spill levels. It’s on its way to 50 and even 60 in the coming years.

And speaking of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill – one in which BP and Halliburton have seen financial and reputational hits for the roles in which they played in it – competing companies (as well as those involved) have taken note at what’s at stake if negligence becomes catastrophe. That means we’re looking at a safer and more environmentally conscious oil and gas industry than ever before. It’s not just the right thing to do anymore. It’s now financially the right thing to do.

But even for locals, it’s easy to live our day-to-day lives and forget exactly how much energy our industry provides to America.

Just at the Louisiana Offshore Oil Port (LOOP), also in southern Lafourche Parish, more than 1.1 million barrels of oil per day can be shipped via pipeline to Pelican State refineries. And why stop there? The largest point of entry for waterborne crude oil coming into the U.S. can also send oil to 10 states, consisting of more than 50 percent of the nation’s refining capacity.

Although horizontal fracking is an impossibility in southeast Louisiana due to the lack of a shale beneath our soil, many areas in the central to northern portions of our state are seeing an economic explosion. In Louisiana’s most prolific shale, the Haynesville Shale is currently employing thousands of workers, propelling about $40 billion in direct economic growth. Similar numbers could be seen a little south at the Tuscaloosa Marine Shale, which spans west-to-east from the DeRidder area through the Alexandria and Baton Rouge areas and through the Northshore.

Louisiana is looking at $60 and $100 billion of investments due to fracking and competitive natural gas prices, according to experts.

And there’s do doubt that an educated workforce is paramount. Especially when estimates show that a large portion of industry workers will be hitting retirement age within the next 10 years. That “Big Crew Change” is why industry has partnered with local institutions to ensure the future from a white-collar perspective.

The Maritime Management Concentration program at Nicholls State as well as the BP Integrated Production technology facility at Fletcher Technical Community College are among our local educational efforts.

Now, where there are multiple steps forward, there will assuredly always be unforeseen steps backward. The oil and gas industry is no different. See the 2010 oil spill and moratorium, for instance.

Industry’s issues du jour include litigation from the South Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East as well as the seemingly always-lingering legacy lawsuits, but experts expect these to merely be speed bumps on the road to continued prosperity.

In a nutshell, the outlook of southeast Louisiana’s oil and gas industry looks as positive as it ever has and could thrust our economy into stratospheres never imagined.... as long as we keep doing it right and avoid another environmental disaster.

So Big Oil, please keep doing it right and avoid another 2010 – the only thing that could kill the goose that is laying the golden egg.