As Hurricane Isaac made landfall after prompting the evacuations of Gulf of Mexico (GoM) platforms and rigs, the US Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) announced all drilling rigs had been accounted for by their staff.
The news came Aug. 29, just a day after the Category 1 hurricane came ashore in southeastern Louisiana, wreaking havoc onshore. The storm already had hit oil and gas producers in the pocketbook when it forced the shut-in of nearly 95% of the current daily oil production – about 1.3 MMb/d – and approximately 72% of the current daily natural gas production – about 3,224 MMcf/d – in the GoM, BSEE figures showed. The information is based on operator reports the agency received.
Through real-time monitoring capabilities, BSEE said it confirmed that all mobile offshore drilling units (MODUs) in the GoM are keeping station. MODUs include both jackup and moored drilling rigs.
Personnel have been evacuated from a total of 505 production platforms, or 84.73% of the 596 manned platforms in the GoM, BSEE reported. Personnel have been evacuated from 50 rigs, or 65.79% of the 76 rigs operating in the GoM.
Packing wind speeds of more than 70 mph with higher gusts, the hurricane was producing potentially life-threatening hazards from storm surge and inland flooding as it moved across Louisiana, the National Hurricane Center reported. However, the hurricane was downgraded to a tropical storm Wednesday.
Offshore operators weren’t taking any chances. Some began evacuating over the weekend.
“With storm tracks indicating the storm may develop into a hurricane and make landfall along the Gulf Coast in coming days, BP has been taking a number of steps to respond,” the company reported Aug. 27. “At this point, all personnel have been safely evacuated from our production platforms, and oil and gas production has been temporarily suspended at all facilities. All BP-operated drilling rigs have been evacuated or are securing to evade the storm.”
BP, which has seven platforms in the GoM, also vacated its onshore facilities in Houma and Fourchon, La., and in Pascagoula, Miss. They remained closed Wednesday. However, normal operations continue at BP’s Texas City refinery.
Shell’s central and eastern Gulf operations remained fully evacuated.
“As the weather conditions improve, we expect to begin flyover inspections of our assets on [Aug. 30],” the company said. “Once we determine that conditions are safe, we will begin redeploying staff [Aug. 31] and restarting operations.”
The Shell-operated Capline Pipeline was shut down Aug. 25, and it will resume operations as weather conditions allow, the company said.
“Our top priority is the safety of our personnel and the community and to minimize impacts on the environment and to our customers,” according to a statement from the company.
About 750 employees and contractors were evacuated from Apache Corp.’s facilities in the eastern GoM, the company said. The precautionary step will curtail about 24,000 b/d and 91 MMcf/d.
Murphy Oil also announced Aug. 26 that it was evacuating its workers and suspending its GoM operations, the Associated Press reported. Other companies also reported they would clear some Gulf Coast facilities and vacate GoM operations.
Facilities will undergo inspection after the hurricane passes, according to BSEE. Production at undamaged facilities will resume operations immediately.
Contact the author, Velda Addison, at email@example.com.
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