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Gulf Report: Destruction, Spills and 17% of Production Still Shut-in When Hurricane Season Hits

This double-hulled barge spilled 3 million gallons of oil after ripping into a submerged, wrecked oil platform. (See below)

The US Minerals Management Service (MMS) has just released its analysis of the effects of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita on oil and gas production in the Gulf of Mexico (GOM), detailing the destruction of 115 oil platforms and the damage of 52 others; the damage of 183 pipelines, 64 of those major pipelines larger than 10" in diameter; and 418 “minor” pollution incidents. (A minor incident is less than 500 barrels of oil spilled that doesn’t reach the coastline.)

MMS estimates that approximately 255,000 barrels a day (17%) and 400 million cubic feet of gas a day (4%) will probably not be restored to production prior the start of the 2006 hurricane season.

As of 11 January, 26.45% of daily oil production in the Gulf (396,786 bpd) was still shut-in. The cumulative shut-in oil production for the period since Katrina hit on 26 August 2005 is 114,042,425 barrels, equivalent to 20.83% of the yearly production of oil in the GOM.

Daily shut-in gas production remains at 1.805 BCFPD, equivalent to 18.05% of the daily gas production in the GOM. The cumulative shut in gas production is 585.308 BCF, equivalent to 16.036% of the yearly production of gas in the GOM.

The overall damage caused by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita to oil and gas production has shown them to be the greatest natural disasters to oil and gas development in the history of the Gulf of Mexico (GOM), according to US Minerals Management Service Regional Director Chris Oynes.

MMS estimates that 3,050 of the Gulf’s 4,000 platforms and 22,000 of the 33,000 miles of Gulf pipelines were in the direct path of either of the hurricanes. Because of the large amount of infrastructure in the path of hurricane-force winds and waves, the amount of damage was substantial. (Category 4 Rita actually caused more destruction and damage than Category 5 Katrina, according to the tally, due to its path.)

Although MMS notes that there were no “significant oil spills from wells on the outer continental shelf (OCS)”, there was significant collateral spill damage, according to a report in the New Orleans Times-Picayune.

A double-hulled tanker barge now drained and floating upside down at a dock off Mobile Bay was responsible for what appears to be one of the Gulf of Mexico’s largest oil spills, which received scant attention when it occurred in the early morning of Nov. 11. A gash in the hull 35 feet long and 6 feet wide released up to 3 million gallons of oil off the coasts of Louisiana and Texas.

Federal officials said the 442-foot ship’s hull ruptured and spilled the oil after it collided with a submerged oil platform wrecked by Hurricane Rita in September. Federal records show at least 167 Gulf platforms were damaged or destroyed during the 2005 hurricane season. Many are submerged or so damaged that the warning beacons on them no longer work, and federal officials say they have no idea how many have working marker lights.

At least two more vessels have collided with submerged platforms since the Nov. 11 incident, federal records show.


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