by Taylor Gautreaux, co-features editor
The Bayou Region’s oil and gas industry dominates life in South Louisiana. From the local infrastructure to the job market, our communities are largely dependent upon the activities of this industry.
“If you go to the town of Houma now and you know what it used to look like, it’s obvious what the oil field has done,” says Nic Schaff, a sales representative for Gaubert Oil Company.
In many ways, the Bayou Region developed as a result of the industry’s prosperity.
“Our schools are here to teach the children of the people who work in the oil field. We have restaurants to feed them. We have hospitals to care for them,” Schaff says. “These towns were built because of the industry and its workers.”
The state is ranked second in the country in crude oil and gas production, as well as petroleum refining capacity. With nearly 18 percent of the country’s oil supply passing through Louisiana parishes, these natural resources allow the state to make contributions on a national level as well.
“I think if you really look back at the history of the oil and gas industry as far as exploration, you’ll find that a lot of innovations used worldwide have come directly out of this region,” Schaff says.
Louisiana is home to several startup companies working to advance technology for the industry. Improvements in the performance of oil drilling and production quality have also been made.
However, the state has experienced about a 20 percent drop in crude oil production since 2013, according to Louisiana’s Department of Natural Resources.
“It’s really impacted buying habits, which has affected everything else,” says Albert “Al” Waguespack Jr., president of Waguespack Oil Company. “People aren’t spending extra money because they’re having to save it to pay for the basics.”
He adds that the industry has gotten slightly better over the past couple of months, but 30 to 40 percent of supply boats remain out of service.
“Unfortunately, it seems it will be like this for a while,” Waguespack says. “The prediction of where oil and gas is headed changes every day.”
The uncertainty of the industry’s future is due to low oil prices globally. Schaff says that it’s largely based on decisions that governments in countries like Saudi Arabia, Iran and Russia are making.
Despite the industry’s decline, companies such as Gaubert Oil have continued business by finding alternate ways to operate.
“We’ve diversified into other industries such as construction and transportation,” Schaff says. “We’re not solely relying on the oil and gas industry as far as drilling activities go.”
He adds that the company employs nearly 350 people and has never laid anyone off due to the industry’s fluctuation.
“As a workforce, we are very reliant on the oil and gas industry,” says Schaff. “But we are also innovative. We’ll always find solutions to get by.”