Figures from the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement underscore how Gulf oil production has been in a slow but steady decline. After churning out more than 570.2 million total barrels of oil during 2009, that figure shrank to 463.1 million in 2012 – coinciding with the ramping up of exploration in land-based hot spots.
That, according to market watchers, has implications for how U.S. energy output can recover from major storms that disrupt Gulf Coast oil production.
"When the Gulf of Mexico represented a larger share of domestic U.S. production, there was greater urgency to get shut-in production back online," said one energy company official, who asked not to be identified."Over the last 5-10 years, with so many new domestic energy sources onshore, there doesn't seem to be that urgency."
The effort to re-position energy production from offshore rigs to potentially more prodigious inland areas has picked up speed in recent months.
EOG Resources, BHP Billiton and ConocoPhillips — a trifecta of the largest companies in Texas energy exploration — have spent a combined $30 billion on Eagle Ford oil and gas. Elsewhere, energy company Apache has more than tripled the number of inland rigs and wells since 2010, according to company data, mostly in areas like Oklahoma, New Mexico and the Texas Panhandle.
Late last year, ExxonMobil bought the Bakken-based assets of Denbury Resources for $1.6 billion in cash and interests in two oil fields, in a move that gave the oil behemoth 50 percent more acreage in the oil hub.
Not to be outdone, energy giant Hess has also gone on a production binge in the suddenly hot Bakken. In January, the company said it churned out 87 percent more oil and gas from the region than in 2011. In a call with analysts, company chairman and CEO John B. Hess called the North Dakota outpost "arguably one of the best shale oil plays in the world."
In effect, the growing land presence of energy companies means the price of oil and gas could become less susceptible to the vagaries of natural disasters like Sandy and Isaac.