Bottlenecks in oil and gas plan and permit approval activity in the Gulf of Mexico (GOM) since 2010's Macondo well disaster are costing some $44 billion in U.S. gross domestic product and 230,000 jobs, according to a new IHS CERA/IHS Global Insight study.
The study, Restarting "the Engine" — Securing American Jobs, Investment and Energy Security, examined the "activity gap," or the difference between the investment capacity of oil and gas companies and the regulatory capacity to process and oversee this activity. Based on data from the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE), the study identified a growing backlog of exploration and development plan applications awaiting approval and a significant reduction in plan and drill permit approvals.
The costs of delays in the regulatory "new regime" are "economically significant and not just in Gulf states" such as Texas and Louisiana, said Daniel Yergin, chairman of IHS CERA and author of the Pulitzer prize-winning book on the oil industry, The Prize, during a press conference on the new study.
Daniel Yergin – Regulatory delays take "economically significant" toll outside Gulf States
The leading states outside of the GOM to benefit from oilfield supply, service and software jobs would be California, followed by New York, Florida, Illinois and Georgia, the study found. Other manufacturing-dependent economies such as Pennsylvania and Ohio also would receive significant benefits.
"There is a need to better align the new regulatory environment with industry capacity, as the current pace of plan and permit approval is congested," said Jim Burkhard, IHS CERA managing director for global oil. "With that alignment, then the country can realize the economic and energy security benefits of a restarted Gulf of Mexico."
Among the study's key findings, the lost opportunity from an inability to close the activity gap would amount to:
The study also found that one billion barrels of oil reserves that the Gulf of Mexico in the form of new discoveries were not realized in the past 12 months. This could affect the future production outlook, IHS CERA noted.
Federal agencies that regulate energy exploration were restructured last year and the regulatory approval process has not returned to previous levels, IHS CERA reported. "Each month that passes without closing the gap reduces the potential economic benefits," the company said in a statement.
The study examined plan and permit activity levels in the six months since the lifting of the moratorium in the GOM in October, 2010. The analysis found:
"An increase in oil and gas activity reverberates throughout the broader economy," said James Diffley, senior director of IHS Global Insight's U.S. Regional Economic Group. "Each new hire of a platform worker, machinist or other specialist to work in the Gulf's oil and gas industry results, on average, in more than three additional jobs in an array of industries around the country, whether it be in the Gulf region or a subsea power cable provider in Ohio, a steel manufacturer in Pittsburgh or a software firm in California's Silicon Valley."
The report also noted that the increased activity in the upstream oil and gas sector of the Gulf of Mexico will have substantial impact on income and would lead to increased consumer spending since oil and gas jobs are higher paying, on average, than wages paid to workers in many other sectors. In turn, more offshore development and the jobs it creates would lead to the enhancement of federal, state and local tax revenues by some $12 billion in 2012 and $20 billion through 2013, IHS CERA projected.
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