The Lafayette Economic Development Authority did some number crunching on Gulf of Mexico deepwater permits, anything deeper than 500 feet, and found that 2012 was a record year for deepwater permitting. While drilling is increasing in the Gulf of Mexico, it is not likely feeling the effects of the uptick in deepwater permitting activity just yet, as it takes two to three years from permitting to drilling -- sometimes longer.

But that increase in permitting certainly bodes well for the future of deepwater GOM activity -- and the future of Lafayette's economy.

Chart by LEDA/Source: BSEE
More deepwater GOM wells, for drilling in water more than 500 feet,
were permitted in 2012 than ever before.

LEDA officials say the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement’s figures reveal that last year was the most active on record since 2005 (which is as far back as BSEE’s permit tracking goes), with 112 permits issued for new wells in the deepwater Gulf of Mexico.

That’s more than 62 percent of all new wells permitted in the Gulf last year.

Through July 2012, 72 permits had been issued for new deepwater wells; in contrast, only 27 have been issued through the first seven months of 2013. But no one should read much into that, cautions economist Loren Scott, who says it may be too early to be making comparisons to 2012 because this is such a cyclical business.

“Plus, these are permits, and what we are hearing so much about is drilling, which occurs with a lag after the permitting process,” Scott notes.

Before the Deepwater Horizon disaster in 2010, 33 deepwater rigs were running in the Gulf, a number that plummeted to 11 post spill, Scott says. By June of this year, deepwater rig activity had rebounded to pre-spill levels.

And activity has been steadily climbing since.

As of Aug. 19 that number was up to 48, which does not include any workover operations, according to the Louisiana Oil and Gas Association. Scott predicts 60-plus deepwater rigs will be operating in the Gulf between 2015 and 2017.

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