Expert: Talk of oil "boom" premature

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Is Louisiana in another oil boom? New wells continue to pop up across the Florida parishes and southern Mississippi with companies eager to tap into the abundance of oil and natural gas found in the Tuscaloosa Marine Shale. Experts say this is far from a boom, but the buzz is building. Recent newspaper headlines read Liquid Gold, Oil boom in the making, Louisiana border verging on oil boom.

"I think it's a little premature to call it a boom, but certainly something to be optimistic about," said Don Briggs, President of the Louisiana Oil and Gas Association.

Briggs is watching closely as companies move in to explore the Tuscaloosa Marine Shale formation. Because of new technology, including fracking, at least 20 wells are now producing here, including BLADES 33H #1 six miles outside of Kentwood in Tangipahoa Parish. Some two miles underneath the cows grazing nearby are pockets of oil and natural gas; as much as 9 billion barrels in the entire formation. But it's hard to get to and expensive. The depth is only part of the problem.

"Hydraulic fracturing in the TMS is a lot different than up in Haynesville and other shale plays in the country," Briggs said. "It's the complexity of the shale. It's very soft, so finding that right cocktail so to speak when you hydraulically fracture it to make it produce more is the key. When those wells are coming in, and the ones that are producing, many of them are doing very well and they're making 1000, 900 barrels a day."

Tangipahoa Parish President Gordon Burgess says Goodrich Petroleum has the majority of land leases in the area, including the Kentwood well. He hopes more drilling comes to the parish, but agrees the current situation is far from the boom experienced at the Haynesville Shale formation in North Louisiana. It spawned the reality TV show Bayou Billionaires.

"Don't go buy a new Cadillac. Not right now. Let's wait. Get you a used Ford or a Chevrolet, then let's see what happens," Burgess said. "I'm encouraged with the leases and especially the ones with the drilling activity, but it's not going to happen overnight."

A handful of property owners will likely get a substantial payday, but spreading that wealth around could take years.

"I don't know if we'll see a boom like the Haynesville was a boom, but I think we certainly can see some increased activity, which could bring revenues to all those parishes and into the state coffers," Briggs said.

Burgess said for now he's most concerned with making sure oil companies operate safely in his parish, and repair any damage their heavy equipment does to local roadways.

"You'll see some equipment moving in, you'll see more trucks, more traffic coming in, but that's with progress," he said.

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