Developers say Tangipahoa Parish sitting on oil


Posted on December 16, 2011 at 11:17 PM

Updated Friday, Dec 16 at 11:22 PM

Doug Mouton / Northshore Bureau Chief

FLUKER, LA -- Tangipahoa Parish now has its first working oil rig.

It's described as an evaluation well in Fluker, as the oil industry taps into the Tangipahoa section of the Tuscaloosa Marine Shale.

The Tuscaloosa Marine Shale is roughly 2.7 million acres, which stretches across central Louisiana and into Southwest Mississippi.

According to LSU geologists, that land may contain 7 billion barrels of oil, and new technology may allow that oil to be safely and effectively collected.

"The sweet spot, if you will, of the Tuscaloosa Marine Shale find, is in north Tangipahoa Parish," said Tangipahoa Parish Economic Development Director Bob Basford.

The well in Fluker is massive, 142-feet tall. It's a combined effort from Devon Energy of Oklahoma City and Nabors Drilling of Houston.

"Are we excited about it?" Bob Basford asked. "Absolutely. Are we optimistic? Cautiously optimistic, yes."

A spokesperson for Devon Energy told Eyewitness News by phone Friday that because the Tuscaloosa Marine Shale in Tangipahoa Parish is a new plate, a new oil bearing formation, it's unchartered territory. The spokesperson called it a learning process, and wouldn't put a timetable on it.

Beginning early in the year, Tangipahoa landowners along the Tuscaloosa Shale were offered money for their mineral rights.

"The contract reads oil, gas and sulphur," Ellis Verdin told Eyewitness News back in February. "Any mineral rights like this." Verdin owns 62 acres east of Amite. He said he was offered $100 an acre for his mineral rights, and one-sixth of the royalties.

"It's explorational," Verdin said, "but they have a pretty good idea that there may be something here. It's not a definite. I didn't get that from them, but there's a chance there may be."

The selling of mineral rights was an economic boost for Tangipahoa Parish, but what Bob Basford described as a "minor boost."

"There are Tangipahoa Parish citizens and landowners that have more cash in their hands for Christmas had this not happened, significantly more," Basford said. "But that's nearly what we're looking for. That's not the workforce creator, the business investment creator, that we're looking for in the Economic Development Organization."

The job creation comes, according to Basford, with the actual finding of oil, and if the exploration finds what they expect to find.

"It doesn't create jobs on a one-time hit," Basford said. "It creates a decade's worth of production and jobs. The wells can be fracked and then they can be refracked and then the pipelines that will carry to product to a refinery, for example, have to be constructed. That sort of thing. That will take a long time, and create lots of jobs."

Basford said he wouldn't be surprised to soon see a couple hundred working oil wells in Tangipahoa Parish, assuming number one is successful.