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FOURCHON BUSINESS ON THE UPTICK

By Casey Gisclair

The price of oil remains relatively stable and far greater than it was at the peak of the area’s recession.

And officials with Port Fourchon want everyone to know that the port is growing and is very much open for business.

Port Fourchon Executive Director Chett Chiasson said that business at the port has seen a bit of an uptick, which is good news because things had been so down for so long.

Chiasson said the port is holding its own and is reaping the benefits of the economic upswing — the slow, gradual process which has taken place over the past several months after oil bottomed out in 2016.

He said he’s proud of his staff and the port’s tenants for making the best of a bad situation, adding that everyone now believes that bright days are in the future.

“Business at the port is better than it has been over the last several years,” Chiasson said. “It’s still not where we want to see it, for sure, but it is better. We’ve been working hard to keep our customers here and they’ve stayed here. We’re really excited about the fact that the price of oil has been up here lately and it looks like it’s steadying up, so we’re just really excited about what the future might hold for Port Fourchon and our customers in the oil and gas industry now and into the future.”

Chiasson said the current prices are a bit of a bull’s eye for oil and gas companies, adding that higher numbers, obviously, would be preferred, but aren’t necessary for profit margins to be met.

At this time last year, oil prices were just below $50/barrel. They slowly picked up steam and headed toward the $55/barrel mark by the end of 2017.

In 2018, prices have surged and since March, they’ve consistently been above $60/barrel and since May, a fluctuating price between $65-72/barrel has been somewhat of the new norm — a price point that’s expected to mostly stick, thanks to OPEC’s work to regulate the supply and demand market globally.

“I think that $70 per barrel is really good,” Chiasson said. “I think everybody can be really happy with that and we can see some things really steady up in the industry and I think we can see major companies really looking to get the permits they want and commit the money to drilling in the Gulf. For us, that’s it. Our business is about drilling. If we don’t see more drilling, it’s really hard for the service companies, which is what Fourchon’s bread and butter is — and really our community here.”

But global politics are on the side of the industry, too, which Chiasson said helps in a big way.

Chiasson said the biggest reason why $70/barrel works for the Gulf of Mexico and Port Fourchon is because President Donald Trump has been so willing to work with the industry to help it through its struggles.

Chiasson said he goes to Washington several times a year and added that this administration is easier to work with than the last.

Trump’s administration has limited regulations, which had previously made the cost of drilling expensive and virtually impossible for everyone except conglomerates after the Deepwater Horizon explosion and oil spill.

Without those things on the books, the price doesn’t need to be as high for work to be done with considerable profit.

“The break-even point right now is actually only $40/barrel,” Chiasson said. “So this price-margin is pretty good for the oil and gas industry, so now, we want to see some drilling take place and more business take place. … Things on a national scale have been better politically. And things are really moving in a good direction.”

Closer to home, the future of the port is also going to be decided in November, as a new batch of port commissioners will be elected.

Chiasson said he wouldn’t endorse anyone running — for obvious reasons — but he did offer some of the traits that he believes a person must possess to be a successful commissioner.

“It’s about wanting to do for your community,” Chiasson said. “That’s really who we are. It’s about somebody who has this place in their heart and wants to do well to continue to provide jobs and economic development for our community.”

At the time of the interview, qualifying was still open, so he didn’t know the full list of candidates for each race. But he said through talking to people who were planning to run, he was pleased with the candidate pool, adding that he trusted local voters to elect the best people to each seat.

He said voter participation in the election is important, adding that Port Fourchon provides 18 percent of the nation’s energy supply and generates millions and even billions of dollars of business.

“It’s very important for the rest of the country to understand the importance of what this little speck on the map is worth to them,” Chiasson said. “And we do that as best we can.”

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