4th year brings Haynesville Shale slowdown

SHREVEPORT, La. — DeSoto Parish school officials don’t know any figures yet, but expect to have to pare their 2012-13 budget from current spending because drilling in the Haynesville Shale is slowing down.

Oil and gas companies began announcing cutbacks earlier this year, The Times reported.

Planners always said the explosion of leasing and drilling would slow. This year — four years into the drilling — is expected to mark a significant turn in activity.

Record low natural gas prices because of an abundant supply from shale plays and an unusually mild winter have oil and gas companies moving to oil and natural gas liquid plays.

Companies are slicing rig counts in northwest Louisiana but continue to service thousands of wells already drilled in the area.

Industry officials predict once gas prices rise and stabilize, the dry gas fields like the Haynesville will be hot again, especially as markets are developed overseas for liquefied natural gas.

“While the rig count has split in half from its peak of 139 in 2010 to now around 60 rigs in north Louisiana, we will see certain companies remain in the Haynesville for years to come,” said Don Briggs, Louisiana Oil and Gas Association president.

Chesapeake Energy, the largest leaseholder in the play, started the cutbacks. In its quarterly report it said the rig count in dry gas plays would be cut from 75 nationwide to 24, which includes 12 rigs in the northeastern part of the Marcellus Shale and six each in the Haynesville and Barnett shales.

Shell has scaled back but still has about 200 wells, said James Blanton, operations manager at Shell’s DeSoto Parish office.