• 3 hours UK On Track To Approve Construction of “Mini” Nuclear Reactors
  • 7 hours LNG Glut To Continue Into 2020s, IEA Says
  • 9 hours Oil Nears $52 With Record OPEC Deal Compliance
  • 12 hours Saudi Aramco CEO Affirms IPO On Track For H2 2018
  • 14 hours Canadia Ltd. Returns To Sudan For First Time Since Oil Price Crash
  • 15 hours Syrian Rebel Group Takes Over Oil Field From IS
  • 3 days PDVSA Booted From Caribbean Terminal Over Unpaid Bills
  • 3 days Russia Warns Ukraine Against Recovering Oil Off The Coast Of Crimea
  • 3 days Syrian Rebels Relinquish Control Of Major Gas Field
  • 3 days Schlumberger Warns Of Moderating Investment In North America
  • 3 days Oil Prices Set For Weekly Loss As Profit Taking Trumps Mideast Tensions
  • 3 days Energy Regulators Look To Guard Grid From Cyberattacks
  • 3 days Mexico Says OPEC Has Not Approached It For Deal Extension
  • 4 days New Video Game Targets Oil Infrastructure
  • 4 days Shell Restarts Bonny Light Exports
  • 4 days Russia’s Rosneft To Take Majority In Kurdish Oil Pipeline
  • 4 days Iraq Struggles To Replace Damaged Kirkuk Equipment As Output Falls
  • 4 days British Utility Companies Brace For Major Reforms
  • 4 days Montenegro A ‘Sweet Spot’ Of Untapped Oil, Gas In The Adriatic
  • 4 days Rosneft CEO: Rising U.S. Shale A Downside Risk To Oil Prices
  • 4 days Brazil Could Invite More Bids For Unsold Pre-Salt Oil Blocks
  • 4 days OPEC/Non-OPEC Seek Consensus On Deal Before Nov Summit
  • 5 days London Stock Exchange Boss Defends Push To Win Aramco IPO
  • 5 days Rosneft Signs $400M Deal With Kurdistan
  • 5 days Kinder Morgan Warns About Trans Mountain Delays
  • 5 days India, China, U.S., Complain Of Venezuelan Crude Oil Quality Issues
  • 5 days Kurdish Kirkuk-Ceyhan Crude Oil Flows Plunge To 225,000 Bpd
  • 5 days Russia, Saudis Team Up To Boost Fracking Tech
  • 6 days Conflicting News Spurs Doubt On Aramco IPO
  • 6 days Exxon Starts Production At New Refinery In Texas
  • 6 days Iraq Asks BP To Redevelop Kirkuk Oil Fields
  • 6 days Oil Prices Rise After U.S. API Reports Strong Crude Inventory Draw
  • 6 days Oil Gains Spur Growth In Canada’s Oil Cities
  • 6 days China To Take 5% Of Rosneft’s Output In New Deal
  • 6 days UAE Oil Giant Seeks Partnership For Possible IPO
  • 6 days Planting Trees Could Cut Emissions As Much As Quitting Oil
  • 7 days VW Fails To Secure Critical Commodity For EVs
  • 7 days Enbridge Pipeline Expansion Finally Approved
  • 7 days Iraqi Forces Seize Control Of North Oil Co Fields In Kirkuk
  • 7 days OPEC Oil Deal Compliance Falls To 86%
Alt Text

Will Demand For Offshore Rigs Ever Recover?

Offshore drilling companies have struggled…

Irina Slav

Irina Slav

Irina is a writer for the U.S.-based Divergente LLC consulting firm with over a decade of experience writing on the oil and gas industry.

More Info

Sinking Louisiana: A Major Threat To Billions In Oil Infrastructure


That Louisiana is sinking into the Gulf of Mexico is not news. Rising seas and coastline erosion have been working together for decades, but this sinking may well be happening faster than previously thought—threatening billions and billions of Louisiana oil infrastructure.

This is the central idea of a new study from Tulane University that set out to map the Louisiana coastline using new methods of measuring subsidence—the technical term for sinking land. The outcome of the measurements is an average 9 mm of wetlands lost to the sea every year. This compares to previous estimates of an annual subsidence rate between 1 to 6 mm.

The authors warn that there are differences in the rate of sinking at different locations along the coast, but overall, we are already seeing what other authors in earlier studies have estimated as the worst-case scenario for the future.

There is grim irony in the fact that according to the Tulane University researchers, the main reason for the accelerated sinking is the loss of sediment carried by the Mississippi River to the coast because of the numerous levees aimed at protecting cities and industrial infrastructure from flooding. Now, Gulf waters are advancing, and it is making flood threats more serious as natural defenses such as marshes are being swallowed by the sea. So is oil infrastructure.

A 2016 report from Bloomberg warned that the oil industry is having to deal with US$100 billion worth of infrastructure on the Louisiana coast that is being threatened by the combined forces of rising sea levels and subsidence. The report cited a study from America’s Wetlands Foundation and Entergy Corp, which found that annual losses for Big Oil already amounted to US$14 billion. This could balloon to a total US$350 billion by 2030.

The Washington Post notes in its report of the new study that the Louisiana Legislature recently approved funding of US$50 billion for the restoration of the coastline, but this is nowhere near enough, it would seem—all the more so given that the US$50 billion will be spent over a period of 50 years, and four of the five most expensive projects in this master plan are focused on marsh creation—the once natural defenses of the coast against the corrosive effect of seawater.

The situation certainly looks like it requires urgent measures and this makes accurate measurement of the sinking rates all the more important. One of the study authors, Torbjörn Törnqvist, told the Washington Post that there is more work to be done in this direction—the map that the team outlined based on their measurement showed the big picture, he said, rather than specific subsidence rates at different locations.

Related: Oil Markets Unmoved By Brewing Conflict In The Middle East

Knowing the specific rates at which the land is sinking in specific locations will help more focused efforts for restoring those parts of the coastline that need the most urgent restoration. Or, as associate professor Alex Kolker from the Louisiana Universities Consortium put it to the WT, “the amount that the area is sinking directly impacts the amount of mud that you need to fill the area and to restore a marsh.”

The oil industry, which has had a part to play in the damage, is one obvious source of funding for the restoration effort, but it seems Big Oil is a bit reluctant to take part. ConocoPhillips, Chevron, and Citgo last year partnered with America’s Wetlands Foundation on a pilot project in erosion mitigation, but there have been few other signs that energy companies are willing to partake in the state’s master plan.

Of course, there are the US$8 billion that BP had to pay to Louisiana after the Deepwater Horizon disaster, but that’s small potatoes in the wider, long-term coastal restoration plan. Lawsuits against oil companies by local authorities are one way of getting money out of them and using it to restore the coastline, but the industry believes this is not the right way – oil and gas companies are already paying indirectly for coastline restoration with the royalties they pour into the state coffers for their activities in the Gulf, they argue.

The oil industry is certainly not the only culprit behind the quickly sinking Louisiana coast. It may not even be the biggest culprit—remember those levees. Yet it is in its own interest to protect the infrastructure it operates on this sinking coast.

By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com

More Top Reads From Oilprice.com:

Back to homepage

Leave a comment
  • joe chen on June 21 2017 said:
    i'm not covering my oil short yet, will short more until oil gets to low 40s
  • Donald Gill on June 21 2017 said:
    I have lived/worked in Louisiana for many years and all of the hand wringing and blame for whatever is in fashion has been a giant waste of time. The delta was built over thousands of years by mud from the Mississippi. When the river was channeled and the flood paths converted to farming then the mud stopped and the delta started to erode. The only solution , is to allow the river to continue flooding the delta. This has the added benefit of the wetlands filtering out the nutrients from upriver that cause dead zones. This would of course wreak economic havoc so the handwringing will continue.
  • Bob on June 24 2017 said:
    My father in law worked for the Adema/Gravolet company in the 1930's. this was the company contracted to build the levees along the Mississippi River. He told me that it was the worst thing the corps of engineers ever did. He was right. After hurricane Katrina,I was in a meeting in Plaquemines parish ,Louisiana. FEMA asked the parish employees if there were any thoughts about how to prevent as much devastation. I suggested that the levees be removed and allow nature to reclaim the delta. They thought I was nuts.

Leave a comment

Oilprice - The No. 1 Source for Oil & Energy News