The Working Coast

Louisiana's relationship with offshore oil and gas drilling goes back to 1954, and the first floating rig, nicknamed "Mr. Charlie." Today, Virgil Allen operates Mr. Charlie as a museum and training facility. Due to a steep fall in oil prices and oil company layoffs, he hasn't had any trainees in a year.
Credit WWNO

About 12,000 people have lost jobs in Louisiana's oil and gas industry since 2014, according to the state's Workforce Commission. As the price of oil has fallen by more than half, companies are scaling back, and headlines about layoffs appear almost daily. Whether it's boat captains who deliver supplies and staff to offshore rigs, or land-based manufacturers of drilling equipment, Louisiana has an identity as a "Working Coast."

 

While oil prices are expected to rebound, no one can say when, and this industry contraction has already changed the lives and livelihoods of many Louisiana families. WWNO's Coastal Desk talked to workers and industry experts from Shreveport to Lafayette, to examine the current state of employment in Louisiana oil and gas.

Ways to Connect

Classroom training equipment in the Oil & Gas Production Technology Department at Bossier Parish Community College. The BPCC program has seen its enrollment down by more than 40% in the current oil downturn.
Ryan Kailath

 


Derrick Hadley was born to work in the oil field — almost literally. His father named him after an oil rig, spelling and all.

Tegan Wendland / WWNO

Even as the price of oil drops, and offshore drilling slows down, huge amounts of crude oil keep flowing into Louisiana’s oil ports. The biggest is LOOP, the Louisiana Offshore Oil Port. It’s a major pass-through point for a lot of U.S. crude. But instead of heading out to refineries, oil is being stockpiled at LOOP.

Tegan Wendland / WWNO

The oil and gas downturn has resulted in a loss of about 12,000 jobs across Louisiana over the past year. Many of those jobs are concentrated in smaller metropolitan areas, like the Cajun city of Lafayette, which has lost the most. The city that once boomed as a result of oil and gas activity is now struggling to not go bust.

Patrick Kirton in the film "Broken," which he also directed. Kirton turned to the offshore oil and gas industry after 15 years in Hollywood.
Patrick Kirton

In many ways, Patrick Kirton is a typical offshore worker. He grew up in Shreveport; his dad was in the industry; his older brother just retired from BP. But every now and then, out on a rig in the Gulf of Mexico together, his buddies would notice something. And they’d ask him “Hey. Did I see you in a movie?”

Tegan Wendland / WWNO

A sudden drop in oil prices last year has brought huge challenges to the state of Louisiana — more than 10,000 layoffs in the oil and gas sector and a $400 million hit to the state budget. Long known for its “working coast” — represented by shipping, fishing and industry in south Louisiana and along the Mississippi River — the downturn brings with it something of an identity crisis.