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Floodwaters Pose 'Minimal' Impact on Louisiana Wells

Five days after the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) began diverting Mississippi River floodwaters into the Atchafalaya Basin of Louisiana, only a small percentage of oil and gas wells have been reported shut-in by operators.

The Louisiana Department of Natural Resources (DNR) said 592 producing oil and gas wells lie within the area the USACE estimates could be inundated with floodwaters from the Mississippi if half of the 125 gates of the Morganza Spillway were opened, but only 17 have been opened so far. As of 5 p.m. CDT on Friday, the DNR said only 167 oil and gas wells have been reported shut-in.

"So far it's been minimal," DNR spokeswoman Phyllis Darensbourg said Friday regarding the most recent shut-in well count. "We don't know if the numbers will [eventually become] significant or not, but we will post what we find out."

According to the DNR, the estimated production capacity within the estimated inundation area totals 19,278 b/d of oil and 252.6 MMcf/d of natural gas, about 10% of the state's onshore total. So far, the amount of production being lost because of shut-in wells totals 3,785 b/d of oil and 31.54 MMcf/d of natural gas. That represents a 19.6% decrease in oil production, while natural gas production is off by 12.5%.

"So far the flooding hasn't been as severe as they expected," Louisiana Oil & Gas Association (LOGA) President Don Briggs told NGI on Friday. "Hopefully the peak of the flooding won't be severe. That would be a good thing, but we just don't know yet. They thought it would happen a little bit quicker than what it has. The flooding has been very gradual and slow, so it's hard to tell what's going to happen."

Darensbourg indicated that the 167 shut-in wells reported Friday represented the highest total to date. Asked if that total would continue to increase, decrease or remain unchanged, she said, "It's probably going to stay the same. It may get a little bit higher, but we don't expect it to be significantly higher."

On Wednesday Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal asked U.S. Interior Department Secretary Ken Salazar for assistance in helping the state's recreational, commercial fishing, hunting and eco-tourism industries recover from the flooding. He did not mention the oil and gas industry.

The USACE began opening the gates of the Morganza Spillway on May 14 to help protect Baton Rouge and New Orleans from Mississippi River floodwaters (see Daily GPI, May 17). The gates are expected to be open for several weeks. The spillway was constructed in 1954 and connects the Mississippi River to the Atchafalaya Basin, a low-lying area of Louisiana that runs south to the Gulf of Mexico. The spillway has only been opened once previously, in 1973.

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