LAFAYETTE — Louisiana economic development officials hoping to entice oil and gas companies to set up shop here touted the state’s attractive business climate, its food and its fun, and Chevron’s top U.S. deepwater oil and gas executive said to expect robust deepwater drilling through 2020.
The presentations were two of many Tuesday, the first day of the 2013 Louisiana Gulf Coast Oil Exposition.
Thousands of visitors — from roughnecks to CEOs — roamed the Cajundome and Convention Center, filling goody bags with logo-emblazoned pens, plastic cups and other knickknacks handed out by LAGCOE 2013’s 400 exhibitors.
Thousands more attendees are expected Wednesday and Thursday, when LAGCOE 2013 wraps up.
Jim Voorhorst, an official with Louisiana Economic Development, and the Lafayette Economic Development Authority’s Megan Segura told international visitors that Louisiana leads in many business-friendly categories.
Voorhorst said that compared to other states, environmental permits in Louisiana are processed quickly, labor costs are lower, tax incentives are more generous and the state will train employees.
And for manufacturing companies, natural gas as a feedstock or fuel is just a pipeline connection away.
“Our speed to market is something we believe we excel at,” Voorhorst said.
Segura said nearly 11 percent of Lafayette Parish’s population is employed in oil and gas, while Louisiana’s as a whole runs at 3 percent. In other words, she said, Louisiana has a trained oil and gas workforce.
Segura and Voorhorst were targeting companies like JDR Cable Systems Ltd., a United Kingdom company with its U.S. base in Houston.
Paul Jolley of JDR Cable System Ltd. is in Lafayette this week for LAGCOE 2013 to scout the business terrain. JDR is thinking of putting a logistics yard for the company, which manufactures key equipment the oil and gas industry needs to operate subsea wellheads.
JDR having a staging yard in or near Lafayette would put its equipment and personnel closer to where they’re needed, at development sites in the Gulf of Mexico.
“We need to get a feel for Lafayette,” Jolley said. “We need our feet on the ground here first.”
In a standing-room-only presentation, Chevron’s deepwater vice president Steve Thurston said Gulf of Mexico drilling activity in thousands of feet of water has exceeded what was ongoing at the time of BP’s Macondo disaster in 2010, after which drilling ground to a halt.
Thurston said Chevron, knowing that stalling would put them years behind, decided in the fall of 2010 to commit $17 billion to develop deepwater Gulf projects even though the future of drilling there was uncertain.
Chevron currently has five drillships in the Gulf, huge vessels equipped with drilling equipment and most everything needed to poke holes miles beneath the water and sea floor.
And unlike conventional rigs drill ships can run from hurricanes quickly, he said.
Outside the room in which Thurston made his presentation, salesman Jason Derouen was engaged with customers who stopped by the Global X-Ray and Testing Corp. booth. Like the hundreds of other sales personnel manning the more 400 exhibits inside and outside the Cajundome and Convention Center, Derouen beckoned visitors to stop by his booth.
“It was a good first day,” he said, “We’ve probably seen what, 50 people?”
LAGCOE Executive director Angela Cring said Tuesday she didn’t have exact first-day attendance figures. She said that based on registration numbers, total visitors should exceed those of LAGCOE 2011.
The biennial LAGCOE runs through Thursday.