As energy companies move deeper into another hurricane system, information from the US Energy Information Administration (EIA) shows storms are not causing as much of a production disruption in recent years as they have in the past. Why? Because more production is taking place at basins inland, which are typically less impacted by storms. Prolific shale plays onshore are to thank for that. Natural gas produced in the federal Gulf of Mexico (GoM) dropped from 26% in 1997 to 6% in 2012, the EIA said. Likewise, crude oil production also dropped, going from 26% in 2007 to 19% in 2012. However, “For oil and natural gas production, the severity of any disruption largely depends on both the strength and location of the storms,” the EIA brief stated, later noting that “making landfall, or not, is crucial to the effect on hydrocarbon production.” In 2012 Hurricane Isaac, a Category 1 hurricane that made landfall Aug. 28, disrupted production in the GoM. As the storm churned, Phillips 66 announced it had shut its refinery in Lake Charles, La., which produced 239,000 b/d, as well as its Belle Chasse, La., refinery, which produced 247,000 b/d. Others companies with oil and gas operations along the Gulf Coast also took precautions. Offshore, BP, Chevron, and Exxon, among others, ceased operations and evacuated personnel and shut-in offshore production. The day the storm made landfall shut-in production totaled 1.3 MMb/d of crude oil and 3 Bcf/d of natural gas, according to EIA figures. Pipeline and refinery capacity also dropped due to production shut-in – 0.9 MMb/d of petroleum refinery capacity and 1.5 MM b/d of petroleum pipeline capacity were shut down. Production took a bigger hit during the 2008 hurricane season when hurricanes Gustav and Ike came onshore on Sept. 1 and Sept. 13, respectively. “Both of these hurricanes caused considerable damage and led to an average 1.1. MMb/d of shut-in crude oil production and 5.5 Bcf/d of shut-in natural gas production in September,” according to the EIA. The industry was spared from storms from 2009 to 2011. But the magnitude of a hurricane’s potential impact on production is perhaps most evident by hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005. Combined, the two storms destroyed 113 platforms and significantly damaged another 52 platforms, according to the EIA. The resulting cumulative loss through year-end 2005 was 109 MMbbl of crude oil, or 20% of annual GoM production, and 561 Bcf of gas, or about 15% of annual production, according to the Minerals Management Service. This year, forecasters have predicted there could be between three to six major hurricanes packing sustained winds of at least 111 mph in the Atlantic basin. They also forecasted a 70% chance for 13 to 20 named storms in the basin, with at least seven possibly gaining hurricane status. Regardless of whether the predictions become reality, it’s wise to prepare for the worst and hope for the best. Hurricane season runs from June 1 to Nov. 30. Contact the author, Velda Addison, at