Offshore Drilling Halt Could Slash Jobs

President Obama’s announcement last week indefinitely suspending work at 33 deepwater drilling platforms in the Gulf of Mexico has state officials in the Gulf region making dire forecasts of potential job losses as a result of the shutdown. The president imposed a moratorium on operations at the deepest offshore drilling operations in the wake of BP’s disaster in the Gulf, which has poured an estimated 39 million gallons of crude oil into the ecosystem in the wake of the explosion and sinking of BP’s Deepwater Horizon rig in April.

Louisiana Economic Development Secretary Stephen Moret told the New Orleans Times-Picayune that 22 of the 33 rigs covered by the president’s order are off the coast of Louisiana. Moret added that it is possible that some of the remaining 11 could be rigs that were scheduled to start operations in Louisiana waters in the next few months.

Moret has three scenarios for how bad the moratorium could be for Louisiana’s economy: In the near term, Moret believes the state will lose 3,000 to 6,000 direct and indirect jobs; if the suspensions are maintained, this could rise to 10,000 jobs; and if the moratorium persists while oil prices rise, the state could lose 20,000 jobs over the next 12 to 18 months in the form of lost direct and indirect jobs, and missed job creation opportunities because rising petroleum prices stimulate more energy development.

“There’s definitely a real risk that some of these rigs could be moved outside of the Gulf of Mexico because of the cost of keeping them idle, the regulatory uncertainty and opportunities in other parts of the world, ” Moret told the Times-Picayune.

Others are convinced that rigs will be floated to foreign waters, and if they’re moved, it will take two to three years for the equipment to finish up its new contracts elsewhere and come back. “The drilling equipment and the rigs, if they know that they can’t work for the next six months, they’ll re-deploy to the rest of the world. It will be a lot longer than the next six months, ” said Otto Candies III, secretary/treasurer of the Des Allemands marine transport company Otto Candies LLC.