Marine

Report forecasts uptick in Gulf oilfield

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The Gulf of Mexico will see an increase in drilling this year for the first time since an oil bust began in mid-2014, a new forecast says.

“We expect 2019 to be a strong year for the Gulf of Mexico,” William Turner, senior research analyst at the global energy consulting firm Wood Mackenzie, said in a news release. “In addition to exciting new project sanctions, which could usher in more than $10 billion of investment into the region, a couple of historic firsts set to occur next year could set the stage for years to come.”

Whether that translates into new jobs for Houma-Thibodaux, and how many, remains uncertain. But the report from the prominent consulting firm is among the most optimistic since a global crude glut sent oil prices plunging, stripping more than 16,000 jobs from the area’s offshore-oil-based economy.

Shell and Chevron will lead the way, but the actual growth in exploration will come from new entrants, Wood Mckenzie says in its report, “US Gulf of Mexico: 5 things to look for in 2019.” They include companies such as Kosmos Energy, Equinor, Total, Murphy and Fieldwood.

Two major projects serve as bellwethers for the Gulf overall, according to the report, released in mid-December.

-- Chevron’s Anchor project, about 140 miles south of the Gulf oilfield service hub at Port Fourchon, is poised for a final investment decision this year. If approved, it would be the first project using new ultra-high-pressure technology to reach that stage, the result of more than two decades of industry research and development.

“Anchor will be an important one to watch,” Turner said. “The sanction of Anchor will be a significant milestone for Chevron, Total and Venari but also marks a crucial point for the offshore industry as it enters the final frontier in deepwater development.”

Success at Anchor will lead to the next wave of mega-investment in the Gulf, as several other projects using the same technology are waiting to follow its lead. Wood Mackenzie predicts that if Anchor moves forward, more than $10 billion of investment could flow into the region.

-- Shell’s Appomattox development, about 200 miles southeast of Port Fourchon, is set to begin producing oil and gas this year. It will be the Gulf’s first production from a Jurassic reservoir, high-quality oil in sediments that date back about 150 million years. It also required new technology to reach greater depths at higher pressures.

“If the Jurassic roars to life in 2019, it could give operators greater confidence in the play’s potential,” Turner said. “However, if Appomattox disappoints, the Jurassic could continue to lie dormant. The wider region would also be missing an expected strong production growth contributor.”

The report is one of several that predict an uptick this year in the Gulf oilfield. All hinge, in large part, on what happens to oil prices, which are notoriously volatile and difficult to predict, with analysts’ estimates varying widely.

Louisiana economist Loren Scott’s annual economic forecast, released in late September, projects the Houma-Thibodaux metro area, comprised of Terrebonne and Lafourche parishes, will gain 700 jobs, 0.8 percent, this year. It will add another 2,100 jobs, 2.4 percent, in 2020, driven largely by gains in oil and gas. Scott’s forecast is based on oil rising from an average of $65 a barrel in 2018 to $80 a barrel by 2020.

U.S. crude ended 2018 at about $45 a barrel, down 25 percent, the first annual loss since 2015. The trend was similar for Brent, which ended the year at $54 a barrel, down 20 percent. Both ended last week about $3 higher.

In its annual forecast, the LSU Center for Energy Studies predicts increased activity this year but says in the short term the Gulf rig count will remain around 20, where it has been for months.

The Gulf Coast Energy Outlook, released in November, tempers its forecast for offshore job growth by noting what other economists and analysts have said for years. Specifically, it says companies have cut costs through innovation and efficiency, including increased automation and the use of tiebacks that run pipelines from sub-sea wells to existing platforms rather than building new ones.

“This is great news in terms of making the Gulf of Mexico more competitive for future production by lowering costs per barrel of production,” the report says. “However, these productivity gains also mean that fewer workers are needed for a given level of production.”

-- Executive Editor Keith Magill can be reached at 857-2201 or keith.magill@houmatoday.com. Follow him on Twitter @CourierEditor.

Local oilfield service company adds 150 workers

Two major contracts in the Gulf of Mexico have prompted a local oilfield-service company to hire 150 new workers, officials said today.

Danos, based in Gray, says it has secured a contract to provide production workers to Equinor’s Titan platform, which operates in nearly 4,000 feet of water about 60 miles southeast of the offshore service hub at Port Fourchon.

The project, which began late last year, is Danos’ second with Equinor after it was awarded a contract for coatings maintenance on the Titan platform in the fall.

“Danos is excited for the opportunity to work with a high-performing company like Equinor,” owner Paul Danos said in a news release. “Securing and executing the details of the contract has been a true team effort, and we look forward to continuing our commitment to customer service and excellence.”

The company has also been awarded a multi-year contract for production operations with another major oil and gas producer in the Gulf, though company officials would not discuss specifics.

Danos has increased its production workforce by about 150 new employees as a result of the contracts. Most of the new positions are production operators who will be working on the Gulf Coast, with projects spanning from Galveston, Texas, to Venice, La.

“Danos’ ability to provide a recruiting and retention model for competent and skilled workers heavily influenced both contracts,” Danos said. “I commend Danos’ operations team, as well as our human resources team who worked closely with our customers’ operations and procurement teams to make both projects possible.”

Danos, which employs about 2,200 people, is the largest private employer in Terrebonne Parish.

Equinor, based in Norway with U.S. headquarters in Houston, owns 100 percent of the Titan operation and part of 10 others in the Gulf. Its operations there produce about 100,000 barrels of oil per day, and the company says planned growth will make it the fifth-largest producer in the Gulf by 2020.

-- Executive Editor Keith Magill can be reached at 857-2201 or keith.magill@houmatoday.com. Follow him on Twitter@CourierEditor.

New marine research center coming to Houma

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A partnership of local education organizations is developing a new marine research campus in Houma.

This new campus, on Dickson Road, the result of a partnership among Fletcher Community College, the South Louisiana Community College and the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium, or LUMCON, based in Cocodrie.

LUMCON’s goal is to increase society’s awareness of the environmental, economic and cultural value of Louisiana’s coastal and marine environments through research and education programs. LUMCON Executive Director Craig McClain said the campus is available for all who want to collaborate with others.

“The idea of the campus is collaborative,” said McClain. “There will be a lot of focus on work-force development and retraining. There will be a lot on learning technology and innovation. It’s a big, collaborative space. We’re looking for partners among many agencies to come put representation on this campus in Houma.”

The Houma Main Campus will permit LUMCON to stimulate, coordinate and facilitate scientific research among marine science programs. McClain said he hopes to begin construction sometime in 2019.

“We are confident that any research vessels requiring fuel and maintenance as they sail along the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway and in the Gulf of Mexico would find not only the skill sets needed locally, but hospitality, as is deeply rooted in our Southern Louisiana culture,” said Terrebonne Economic Development Authority CEO Matthew Rookard.

The current vessels maintenance building and machine shop at the Cocodrie facility are at ground level, making them vulnerable to flooding. It also lacks space for moving and maintaining the scientific equipment.

The new site will also offer a sheltered base of operations and retreat from flooding. LUMCON’s Cocodrie facility is outside the Morganza-to-the-Gulf Levee System. The facility was closed for several days due to flooding from Tropical Storm Cindy, Hurricane Harvey and other storms. The Houma campus and dock would allow for continued operations during storms.

In total, the new facility would save LUMCON $8 million in productivity over the next 20 years by avoiding operational shut down due to high water, McClain said.

“We continue to have meetings to build a campus plan,” McClain said. “We’re really excited about this campus because it will bring a lot of new entities to the region and the state, as well as make a significant impact on the unemployment in the region.”

An economic impact analysis for the campus conducted by LSU estimated the new campus would lead to over $125 million in earnings and more than $470 million in economic output over the next 20 years.

Construction and operations of the campus would generate 337 new jobs, at construction’s peak, and the facility will employ 70 workers upon completion. The construction will cost an estimated $58.8 million dollars.

“There’s a process where this has to be approved by the Legislature, and then the money is secured for the budget. We’re waiting on finalization of that before we begin the process,” said McClain.

-- Staff Writer Scott McLendon can be reached at 857-2204 or smclendon@houmatoday.com

Cenac Marine donated a barge to SLCC for Workforce Development Training

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CEO of Cenac Marine Services, Benny Cenac, and Company donated a fully refurbished barge to South Louisiana Community College's Workforce Development Training program.  An official christening and rededication took place on November 14th at Cenac Marine Services' headquarters.  The 158 feet by 40 feet fully restored barge was presented to SLCC administration and staff.  The barge is a replica of a standard Cenac Marine Services tank barge and will be used for the school's training of the next generation of maritime industry leaders.  Mr. Cenac is honored to be able to help his community and local education programs.  

Houma company, Marine CFO, teamed up with Lloyd's Register on new software product

Partnerships Drive SubChapter M Solutions

Unless you’ve been lost at sea for the last few years, you know about Subchapter M. You know the June publication of the U.S. Coast Guard’s regulations for ensuring minimum safety standards on tows and tugs, which will extend inspection requirements to the majority of these vessels for the first time, moved the long-awaited, and in some cases, dreaded program from the haze of eventually out into the cold light of day.