Energy Tomorrow Blog: What Louisiana Can Tell Virginia About Safe Offshore Development

Entergy Tomorrow: What Louisiana Can Tell Virginia About Safe Offshore Development

Originally published on January 10, 2019, by API Contributor Mark Green.

Coastal states that have hosted offshore natural gas and oil development for decades illustrate how advanced industry technologies and an emphasis on safety – protecting people and the environment – make offshore energy a great opportunity for other states.

A diverse group of business and industry leaders from Virginia – which could be included in the administration’s soon-to-be-unveiled offshore leasing program – recently visited Louisiana, which has had a long, successful experience with offshore development.

The visiting delegation wanted to see first-hand how offshore operations affect coastal areas, individual communities, the state and regional economy, other water activities and more – all feeding enthusiasm for what safe and responsible offshore energy could mean for Virginia.

Benefits of offshore development could mean tens of thousands of jobs and billions of dollars for Virginia in industry spending and revenues to government – with the potential for more with a federal revenue sharing program like the one that exists for Louisiana and other Gulf Coast states. A recent Canadian report underscores the opportunities for job creation, economic growth and revenue sharing from offshore development.

The Virginia visitors wanted to know whether offshore development is compatible with coastal life. They visited Port Fourchon, which services 95 percent of offshore energy activity in the Gulf of Mexico, and heard from elected port commissioners, some of whom run family fishing and shrimping businesses. They said industry has had a positive effect on their community and that they’ve seen no conflict between offshore development and fishing, hunting and other maritime activities. Virginia Petroleum Council Executive Director Miles Morin, a member of the visiting delegation:

“The natural gas and oil industry bolsters other water uses, as development platforms provide some of the best reefs for fishing in the gulf, reclaimed habitat around the Port fosters wildlife, and ecological research funded by oil and gas dollars paves the path for mitigating the real environmental threat to the Gulf coast – Louisiana’s levee system that contains the flooding of the Mississippi River.”

Industry embraces Louisiana communities. The Fletcher Technical Community College in Schriever, about 60 miles southwest of New Orleans, which receives funding from industry operators, features former industry employees preparing students for offshore energy careers. Currently, students are building a scale replica of an offshore platform. Morin said Virginia’s community college system could replicate Fletcher’s instruction model and prepare high school students for well-paying careers offshore that don’t require a four-year degree.

Visitors saw the LSU Center for River Studies in Baton Rouge, which houses a scale replica of the Mississippi River Delta (above and below). Funded with $18 million from the natural gas and oil industry, the center helps researchers model water flow and sediment deposits, for the purpose of planning land reclamation and coastal resiliency projects.

Lots of technology was on display. At the Shell Command Center in New Orleans, the company monitors a host of offshore drilling and production platforms. The center receives data in real time from millions of censors on dozens of assets throughout the Western Hemisphere. Shell employees have instant communication with counterparts who are hundreds of miles offshore. They can control offshore equipment remotely and work in tandem with on-site employees to ensure excellence in human and environmental safety.

In Baton Rouge, the Virginia delegation met with environmental regulators, members of the state legislative black caucus, business owners, the executive director of the Water Campus and representatives of the Louisiana Mid-Continent Oil and Gas Association and the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry. Morin:

“The group had a candid conversation about community engagement, industry commitment to environmental stewardship, and workforce development programs that the natural gas and oil industry funds and supports. Among the diverse interests in the room, representatives from both political parties, industry, environmental protection, fishing, and maritime, everyone agreed – we can all coexist and be better off for it.”

Safe offshore development is benefiting states such as Louisiana and can provide benefits to others by broadly boosting state economies and putting people to work while advancing the United States’ long-term energy security.

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