Comments: Stormy Season
- John Donnelly (JPT Editor)
- Document ID
- Society of Petroleum Engineers
- Journal of Petroleum Technology
- Publication Date
- June 2006
- Document Type
- Journal Paper
- 16 - 16
- 2006. Society of Petroleum Engineers
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- 17 since 2007
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This month marks the start of another hurricane “season” in the Atlantic basin, a period that lasts from June to November. Last year’s season—the costliest and most destructive on record—caused great damage to oil and gas facilities and infrastructure. The industry still has not completely recovered, although production has been gradually ramping up, and fore-casters predict another active storm season this year.
At last month’s Offshore Technology Conference, Johnnie Burton, Director of the U.S. Minerals Management Service (MMS), recalled how fierce last year’s storm season was. “The 2005 season was the first in which there were 27 named storms,” she said. This included 15 hurricanes, and it also was the first time that three Category 5 hurricanes (storms with winds greater than 155 mph) crossed the Gulf of Mexico (GOM) in one season. “The only silver lining of that horrible black cloud was that there was no loss of life and there was no major pollution,” she added. “That is really quite incredible when you look at the detail of what those hurricanes did and the force they applied to the (oil) facilities.”
Those storms—primarily Katrina and Rita in August and September, respectively—shut in more than 150 million bbl of oil and 749 Bcf of gas from the end of August to May 2006. More than 300,000 B/D of crude and 1.3 Bcf/D of gas was still shut in as of May 2006. Burton said that oil output is at about 80% pre-Katrina and -Rita levels, with three major platforms still undergoing repair. The GOM’s storm woes really began in 2004 when Hurricane Ivan destroyed seven platforms and one rig. Then, last year, Katrina destroyed 47 platforms and four rigs and, 4 weeks later, Rita ruined 66 platforms and four rigs. The MMS still lists 79 platforms as evacuated.
The industry is still assessing last year’s damage even as the new season approaches. Much of the lost production came from destruction to infrastructure, including subsea pipelines. Numerous pipelines were seriously damaged, as were other facilities such as gas processing plants and terminals. Katrina and Rita caused deepwater drilling units to go adrift, and harm caused by the dragging of lines and anchors is still being studied. Rita capsized only one deepwater platform—Chevron’s U.S. $250 million Typhoon, which was located about 160 miles south of New Orleans. The company plans to write off the platform, donating it to a program that takes decommissioned oil and gas structures and turns them into artificial reefs.
Government and industry officials are still determining what changes need to be made in offshore structures to make them less vulnerable to these powerful storms. Universities also are researching the issue. A mild hurricane season would allow the industry to recover the production lost from last year’s storms and completely assess and repair damage to production facilities. It would also take some heat off of oil prices, which continue to wade in record territory even as some global demand has cooled off.
The 2005 hurricane season was, by many accounts, the worst in history. The bad news is that forecasters believe another stormy season is headed this way. Weather researchers at Colorado State U., one of the more closely watched hurricane predictors, believe the Atlantic basin will endure another very active storm season this year, though not as bad as last year. They forecast 17 named storms to form in the Atlantic, with nine of those becoming hurricanes and five developing into intense hurricanes with sustained winds of at least 111 mph.
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