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20+ Oil Rigs and Platforms Missing in GOM

Shell’s damaged MARS platform

AFP. At least 20 oil rigs and platforms are missing in the Gulf of Mexico (GOM) and a ruptured gas pipeline is on fire after Hurricane Katrina tore through the region, according to the US Coast Guard.

Among the firms reporting missing rigs was Newfield Exploration Company, which said an aerial survey of its operations in the eastern Gulf showed that one of its platforms at Main Pass 138 “appears to have been lost in the storm.” Lost, as in, sunk.

Noble Corp. said its semi-submersible rig Noble Jim Thompson, which was contracted to a unit of Anglo-Dutch giant Shell, had broken loose and was 17 miles (27 kilometers) adrift of its normal Gulf location. The company noted that “the unit does not appear to have sustained damage of a material nature.”

A Coast Guard press release issued earlier stated that Shell’s massive MARS Platform is ”severely damaged.”

This hurricane caused catastrophic devastation, and the Coast Guard anticipates that there will be prolonged waterways management and environmental cleanup operations.


The Oil Drum has a posting from an industry insider on the situation:

There are MANY production platforms missing (as in not visible from the air). This means they have been totally lost. I am talking about 10s of platforms, not single digit numbers. Each platform can have from 4 to 100+ wells on it. Most larger ones have 20-30 wells in this area, with numerous caisson wells. They are on their sides, on the bottom of the gulf—they will likely be left as reef material, provided we can get permission.

[...] We utilize platforms as gathering hubs. We pipe the raw oil/water to them and then send it on for separation, or separate it there and send finished oil on. Damage to a hub means everything going to the hub is offline indefinitely. There are +/- 15 HUBS missing. MISSING!! As in we cannot find them from the air.

[...] In short, the Gulf area hit by the storm is basically in about the same shape as Biloxi. The damage numbers you have gotten from the government and analysts are, in my opinion, much too low. We are looking at YEARS to return to the production levels we had prior to the storm...

Still no word on Thunderhorse.

The next named tropical storm—Lee—is already forming and is being tracked by the National Hurricane Center (NHC). Fortunately for the Gulf, Lee is tracking east and north. Unfortunately, there are more where that one is coming from.

According to the NHC reforecast issued at the beginning of August, the bulk of the storms are still to come.



What about pollution? is there no risks of leaks


From what I heard before the hurricaine, it seems that the producers shut off the wells at the well heads (on the seafloor) in preparation for the hurricaine. I doubt, however that they would be able to drain the oil no the pipes running from the wellhead to the platform, or in pipelines on the seafloor that were likely damaged. Of course, crude oil spills in the open ocean (especially during the churning of a major storm) are not the worst thing that can happen. Even in the absence of oill drilling many thousands of gallons of crude enter the gulf from natural seeps every day.

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