Port could begin $26 million additional expansion early
By: John Harper
As soon as Port Fourchon finishes its current $15 million slip C expansion, it may be ready to move ahead with yet another phase of expansion even sooner than expected, officials said.
In addition, port Director Chett Chiasson said he expects an additional $100 million to $250 million in construction projects to begin in 2014. The infrastructure work will depend on the needs of the tenants that occupy land along the new boat slip constructed as part of the expansion.
Combined, the work will create an additional 300-350 temporary construction jobs, he said. Chiasson also expects to add full time workers as the expansion is completed, but the biggest economic boost will come from the increased oilfield service work the facility will be able to handle.
Chiasson’s comments came just as the port announced it had broken ground on the bulkhead phase of the slip C expansion. The $15 million slip C was the most expensive project approved to date by the Fourchon Port Commission.
The port, a service hub for operations in most of the Gulf of Mexico oilfield, is already the largest of its kind in North America by linear footage.
The new project could cost up to $26 million and add over 10,000 linear feet of space to the existing 60,000-foot facility.
Chiasson had hinted at plans to continue expansion in September and said in an interview last week that the new project may be worth over $26 million.
“We are almost eight years ahead of where we thought we would be eight years ago,” Chiasson said. “We are doing everything we can and our tenants are doing everything they can to grow as fast as possible.”
The action comes as work continues on Slip C, the port’s 700-foot-wide and 7,000-foot-long latest expansion. It has been dredged and bulkhead construction has begun. Both Cut-Off based Edison Chouest Offshore, the port’s largest tenant, and Lockport-based Bollinger Shipyards, have already expressed interest in leasing some of the land along the slip. Several other oilfield companies have done the same.
The expansion will add to a surging wave of commercial investment in Terrebonne and Lafourche parishes.
Lafourche, where the port is located, is on pace to set an all time record for commercial project investment, which includes both planned new construction and changes to existing commercial buildings, records show.
Chiasson and real estate developers have attributed the growth to an anticipated increase in offshore drilling activities, particularly in the deepwater Gulf.
In his annual state economic report, LSU economist Loren Scott forecasts that the number of deepwater rigs drilling in the Gulf would increase from 45 to 60 by the end of 2015.
Brent Golleher, manager of government relations for the Louisiana Mid-Continent Oil and Gas Association, said the amount of oil flowing from the Gulf is projected to rise 28 percent over the next decade.
The slip to be constructed next year will extend the port’s northern reaches. It began in December 2012 when the port bought 4,000 acres to accommodate Slip C.
The port already represents over $1 billion in public and private investment. Chiasson said about 75 percent of the money invested in the port has come from private tenants, while the remaining quarter has come from public money such as taxes or grants.
The project will also, per state law, create additional wetlands to the north of the port.