Fourchon Chugging Along
It’s sort of a weird time for energy production right now in the United States.
American oil has flooded the global market at levels we’ve not seen before.
Normally, that would be great news for us and our local economy, but right now, it’s not because most of the oil is coming from land drilling and fracking, a cheaper alternative to drill. This has kept the deepwater Gulf mostly quiet and our local economy mostly slow.
But Port Fourchon Executive Director Chett Chiasson said there are signs that things are slowly on an upward tick, and he believes the next 12 months have a great chance to be better than the previous 12 months.
Chiasson said work is slowly coming back to the port, our local energy hub. He said things are a little slower than most people would like, but that there haven’t been any drops in business — only small, marked increases.
“Things are balancing out,” Chiasson said. “We do see a little more activity. … I’m optimistic about getting through 2019 and into 2020, because with some of the things we’re seeing, we think 2020 can be a year of growth.”
Projections for the future are tough because these truly are unchartered waters in the history of oil and gas production in the country.
Never before has there been so much land-based drilling in the United States, and never before has there been so much United States energy production with so little of it coming from the Gulf.
Chiasson said the past few years have marked significant changes in the industry — especially locally.
“We’re in a time right now that we’ve never been in before,” Chiasson said. “We have a huge glut of oil. We have the highest amount of oil production in the world being drilled in the United States. Look at LOOP, for example. That facility was built to import foreign oil. Now, they export. Right now, 70 percent of U.S. oil goes through LOOP and they’re exporting it. That’s amazing. It’s such a different time. All of these things I’m telling you, no one would have imagined 10 or 15 years ago.”
But there are signs that the current fad is fading and the energy picture in the United States will soon return to normal, and the port will be ready for the next boom — if and when it comes.
Chiasson said shale plays are a “flash in the pan,” adding that land rig production has been going down considerably compared to projections.
“We kind of always knew that shale and land was a flash in the pan,” Chiasson said. “It’s cheap to drill and achieve and get to that well and get the oil, but it’s a big burst at first and then production pretty fast. As those numbers go down on land — like we’ve been seeing — the offshore sector is going to be critical to keep production levels up.”
And that’s where Fourchon comes into play.
Chiasson said there’s bulkhead available at the port right now, which puts Fourchon a little ahead of the game.
“That’s not a bad thing,” Chiasson said. “That means if someone calls, we have it and we’re ready. We don’t have to build anything. They can come in and get to work. Usually, we’re playing catchup, but right now, we’re ahead.”
Chiasson said activity in the past few months has slowly risen, as well, and there has been a little more drilling going on in the Gulf.
Looking forward is where the picture gets most rosy.
Chiasson said he often gets asked whether business at the port will ever get back to “normal.”
He, nor anyone else, knows how to answer that question. But he does have some strong, compelling signs that the future will be bright.
Between the LNG Facility, the completion of La. Highway 1 from Fourchon to Golden Meadow, port construction projects and work going on at the airport, there is significant funding and investment being pumped into the port and its future, which Chiasson believes places the future on steady ground.
“With all of these projects we have right now, you’re going to freak out when I tell you this, because it freaks me out sometimes, too,” Chiasson said with a laugh. “But we’re going to have almost $2 billion — billion with a B — in work. That’s just amazing for us. And that just reinforces to us that while sometimes times are tough, we’re headed in the right direction for the future.” •