Tuscaloosa shale has Capital Region buzzing with bonanza potential

11 30, 2011 by Greater Baton Rouge Business Report

For years, LSU Mineral Law Institute Director Patrick Martin has immersed himself in the oil and gas industry, mostly on paper. He harbors an almost romantic appreciation for the image of a working oilrig, much as an art patron admires a sculpture. He rarely travels without a camera in order to capture images of oil wells. He's gone scuba diving to photograph an underwater rig.

He's particularly fond of the opening scene of the 1970 movie Five Easy Pieces, starring Jack Nicholson, which pans a California oilfield that's filled with pumping rigs Martin likens to "fabulous prehistoric creatures." These days, he doesn't have to go far for the snapshots or scenery. Martin now finds himself living in the middle of one of the hottest oilfield plays in the country. Almost one year ago, he leased all 130 acres of his land in East Feliciana Parish to companies drilling in the Tuscaloosa Marine Shale. His property is particularly marketable; two pipelines practically converge on the adjacent right of way. "I love it," Martin says. "I've been in the oil industry since 1974, and it's fitting that I've settled on top of billions of barrels of oil." The Tuscaloosa Marine Shale is a 2.7 million-acre swath across southeast and central Louisiana and southwestern Mississippi that's believed to hold at least seven billion barrels of oil. The sweet spot is believed to lie within the Capital Region. Read the full cover story in the latest issue of Business Report here.