Tallahassee Journal

Despite plunging oil prices, Gulf on brink of boom

Despite plunging oil prices, Gulf on brink of boom

Whoever is warning that slumping crude prices will curb oil production hasn’t told the tenants of this bustling oil port. Cranes line two enormous slips, expanding capacity and building more facilities. Louisiana-based Bollinger Shipyards is constructing four massive dry docks able to service 300-plus-foot vessels. Workers drive pilings into the ground for what will be the expanded site of Schlumberger, an oil-and-gas technology supplier.US-oil-well

All this activity will soon cater to huge floating facilities in the deepest waters of the Gulf of Mexico as they drill for and produce crude and other products. “It’s an unprecedented time,” Port Director Chett Chiasson said recently as he drove past the construction. “This is the busiest it’s ever been.”

Even as crude’s rampant price plunge rattles the industry, the Gulf of Mexico is on the brink of an unprecedented oil boom. Nearly five years after the Deepwater Horizon disaster briefly paralyzed gulf drilling, analysts predict deepwater oil production is headed into one of the biggest growth spurts in history. Production is likely to reach a peak of 1.5 million barrels of crude a day by 2016, surpassing the previous record set in 2009.

In 2015, production will jump 21% from 2014 levels and grow even more in 2016 – adding to America’s already bulging oil production, said Imran Khan, a deepwater Gulf of Mexico analyst at energy consultants Wood Mackenzie. The number of permits for deepwater drilling increased from 14 in 2010 and 274 in 2011 to 603 in 2014, according to the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, which oversees the drilling.