?The state Mineral Board finally wrapped up its eagerly anticipated lease sales earlier this month, collecting about $43.5 million in total for both September and October (the latter was postponed due to hurricanes Gustav and Ike). It took officials two days to sort through 367 tracts, the most ever handled during a one-month period since 1947.
The historic snapshot, however, was overshadowed by the fact that the craze over the Haynesville Shale area has peaked. Nonetheless, Natural Resources Secretary Scott Angelle says interest in mineral leasing remains high, despite the recent downward trend in natural gas prices. Prices have fallen from $12.94 per million BTUs during the first week of July to roughly half that amount in recent weeks. We, as a state, are bullish on the Haynesville Shale, Angelle says. Energy exploration companies are still showing their willingness to work here and to be a part of our state economy, and still expressing their confidence through investing in developing the states natural resources. Mineral Board Secretary Marjorie McKeithen points to one particular transaction as proof: Northwestern State University received about $4.4 million in lease bonus money and secured $12,000 an acre for the land it had up for bid. Last year, prices averaged about $532 an acre in the region. Overall, the Haynesville Shale area is still outperforming other areas of the state, officials say. Jeremy Alford