Cameron Parish is the focal point for a new frontier in domestic energy exploration, as operators proceed with two onshore drilling projects in the parish targeting inland depths never before permitted in the state, Louisiana Department of Natural Resources Secretary Scott Angelle said in a news release.

One of those exploration wells, in the Johnson’s Bayou area in western Cameron Parish, has been drilling for more than a year and has reached 25,500 feet — deeper than any previous well in the state. No well on record has produced at a depth below surface of 24,000 or deeper, according to the release.

One of the partners in the Johnson’s Bayou well project, Stone Energy, announced that the partnership is working to obtain equipment to reach the targeted depth of 26,000 feet, and drill even deeper. The other major partner in the Johnson’s Bayou Project is Chevron.

Chevron is also the operator of another record-depth project, this one on the eastern side of Cameron Parish, where the company brought the largest land rig in the world, owned by the Unit Drilling Co. of Oklahoma, down from Wyoming to Louisiana and has begun drilling its 29,000-foot Lineham Creek well project.

The state Office of Conservation granted Chevron a permit in October to operate the Lineham Creek well. To get the job done, Chevron contracted the 200-foot-tall Rig No. 201 — a rig with a 40,000-foot design capability built in 1981. The rig required more than 100 semi-truck loads to ship it to Louisiana, and once assembled, the drill floor alone is more than 40 feet off the ground.

Angelle also said the Chevron 29,000-foot project is a prime example of how the state can balance the needs of energy production, economic development and environmental protection. The project is within the Rockefeller Wildlife Refuge, which is managed by the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries

The Rockefeller Foundation donated the refuge to the state in 1919, and the terms of the original deed anticipated that development of mineral resources within the refuge could help support the state’s efforts to maintain it. The deed’s stipulations require that any mineral revenue from activity in the refuge must first go to pay the costs of maintaining the refuge.

Since March 2009, a dozen wells have been drilled to depths of 18,000 feet or deeper in Louisiana’s coastal parishes from St. Mary Parish to Cameron Parish — of which nine have proven productive and several in excess of 20,000 feet.

Companies following that deep gas activity trend north from the Gulf have helped boost a strong year for energy exploration investment and action in Cameron Parish, as 58 new wells were permitted in 2011 — more than the total number of wells permitted in the parish in all of 2009 and 2010 combined, and the most wells permitted there in a single year since 1995.