By Jeremy Alford
BATON ROUGE — At this month’s oil and gas lease sale, the state awarded 22 energy leases covering more than 5,200 acres mostly in south Louisiana, including a sizable swath from the area where Lafourche Parish bumps up against Jefferson Parish.
It also marked the first time in two months that investors put money into state-owned portions of Lafourche.
Meanwhile, after a long run of consecutive sales dating back to last fall, no leases were awarded in Terrebonne Parish.
It was a lackluster monthly sale for the state Mineral and Energy Board, which collected only $2.2 million from oilmen and private companies, compared to $4 million in January 2010.
Overall, roughly $24 million has been collected this fiscal year, which ends June 30. At this time last year, the total was closer to $39 million.
Locally, the state leased more than 260 acres on the eastern edge of Lafourche Parish this month, but the local win is shared with Jefferson.
The area is divided between two leases, both of which are along Bayou Perot.
Patrick L. Donohue Petroleum Properties Inc. of Abbeville scooped up 121 acres for $25,000, while the Texas-based Castex Energy 2005 L.P. was able to secure 140 acres for $38,000.
All told, the state Mineral and Energy Board only sold leases in Acadia, Allen, DeSoto, Jefferson, Lafourche, Red River, Sabine, St. Mary and Vermilion parishes.
Of the 22 tracts awarded, three are in north Louisiana and 19 are in southern parishes.
Additionally, there was one offshore lease awarded to Baton Rouge’s Theophilus Oil, Gas and Land, which pursued a wet plot off the shores of neighboring St. Mary Parish.
It’s just the latest in the saga of shallow and deep water exploration, which have been in flux chiefly because of regulatory action at the federal level following the BP oil crisis.
Michael Bromwich, director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement, said he expects new deepwater drilling permits to be issued by the federal government sometime this summer.
He also said the bureau is working to incorporate many of the findings of the National Oil Spill Commission, which released its final report on last year’s months-long spill.
But Don Briggs, president of the Louisiana Oil and Gas Association, said last week that those promises aren’t inspiring confidence or encouraging investors to get into the Gulf of Mexico.
“The industry feels the return of deepwater drilling is not just around the corner, as Bromwich would have us believe,” Briggs said. “Unfortunately, the only thing that is around the corner is a continued shutdown of a vital industry and, of course, higher energy prices for all Americans.”
The latest U.S. rig count, though, does offer some positive news for Louisiana in the form of three new rigs in action over the past week.
In fact, the number of active rigs searching for oil and natural gas in the U.S. increased by 13 last week to 1,713, according to Baker Hughes Inc.
Dan Juneau, president of the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry, said investors will also be keeping a close eye on Congress, where President Barack Obama is expected to make some bold moves on the energy front in the near future.
Specifically, Obama reportedly wants a renewable energy bill as part of his legacy.
The president “will have to be willing to compromise with members of Congress who want to increase domestic energy production from both renewable and non-renewable sources” to make the bill a reality, Juneau said.