Uncertainty looms over the petroleum sector. In March, the industry saw new opportunities open up when President Obama lifted a 20-year moratorium on offshore drilling along the East Coast, as well as portions of the Gulf of Mexico and the Alaskan coastline. Three weeks later, the political environment took a dramatic turn following the April 20 explosion at BP’s Deepwater Horizon rig in the Gulf of Mexico. The administration ordered a temporary ban on offshore drilling in the Gulf and halted exploration of several new areas. Portions of the oil industry have since been locked in a court battle over the federal government’s actions, leaving petroleum engineering and construction firms with a fuzzy market forecast.
“Until April 20, there was cautious optimism because of the signals that more offshore work would happen,” said Peter Oosterveer, energy and chemicals president of Irving, Texas.-based Fluor Corp. “With the disaster in the Gulf, people went from thinking we’d take a step forward to saying we may have taken at least two steps back. The cautious optimism has been replaced by pessimism about where this market will go.”