Thursday, April 10, 2008

Hurricanes in the Gulf - The Oil industry take

The Hurricanes in the Gulf

The "Thunder Horse" semi-submersible Oil platform damaged as a result of Hurricane Dennis in 2005. (Photo by the USCG).

Even though every year for the past couple of years we have heard that this will be "a severe hurricane season," the number of predicted storms for the season has failed to materialize. While it may be a good thing, this really gives me the willies. Hurricanes are the way the Earth's weather systems balance the planet's heat load by transporting excess energy to the north in order to disperse it. Global climate change has disrupted this by increasing the amount of waste heat in the equatorial areas. The recent large breaks off the Antarctic Ice Shelf (where a Manhattan Island sized chunk of ice recently broke off) and the increasing amount of fresh water coming off the Greenland Ice Shelf point to the fact that the temperature is increasing.

I sincerely believe that man has some doing in this. We have exploited the environment and are about to pay the price.

Anyway, the greatest danger to the environment in an extreme hurricane are the oil platforms that recover petroleum products off shore in the Gulf of Mexico. Like "Thunder Horse" depicted above, theoretical limits on such platforms sometimes do not stand up to the realities of nature.

However, the industry prides itself on the safety of its workers in these situations and evacuations and shutdowns in the face of adverse weather are the norm. In these evacuations damage by storms cannot be mitigated on the spot and thus are only discovered after the storm has passed. During Dennis, Katrina and Rita for example, many rigs simply disappeared and the wreckage was unable to be located after these storms. So the industry has a vested interest in wondering what the season is like and takes any warning seriously.

What follows are two articles from the Oil industry website Rigzone.

Batten Down The Hatches: Experts Warn Of Extreme Hurricane Season
by Kerry Laird
Rigzone 4/9/2008

A "well above average" hurricane season has been predicted for the Atlantic Ocean by weather experts at Colorado State University April 9. Big oil operators and owners are making sure company safety procedures and evacuation plans are in place to protect offshore assets.

The forecast was delivered from the Bahamas Weather Conference by 25-year hurricane forecast veteran William Gray.

"Current oceanic and atmospheric trends indicate that we will likely have an active Atlantic basin hurricane season," said William Gray.

Fifteen named storms are expected to originate in the Atlantic basin between June 1 and Nov. 30. The CSU team predicts that eight will become hurricanes, four of which will develop into "intense or major hurricanes with sustained winds of 111 or greater."

"Based on our latest forecast, the probability of a major hurricane making landfall along the U.S. coastline is 69% compared with the last-century average of 52%," said Phil Klotzbach of the Colorado State hurricane forecast team. "We are calling for a very active hurricane season this year, but not as active as the 2004 and 2005 seasons."

In a press release issued by the university, the forecasting team stated that the hurricane forecast team predicts tropical cyclone activity in 2008 will be 160 percent of the average season. By comparison, 2005 witnessed tropical cyclone activity that was about 275 percent of the average season.

Within these parameters, the CSU forecasters predict a 45% chance that a major hurricane will make landfall on the U.S. East Coast, including the Florida Peninsula (the long-term average is 31%); and a 44% chance that a major hurricane will make landfall on the Gulf Coast from the Florida Panhandle west to Brownsville (the long-term average is 30%).

The team also predicted above-average major hurricane landfall risk in the Caribbean.

Despite the threat of an above-average hurricane season, offshore operators and owners contacted by Rigzone said safety procedures and evacuation plans are in place to ensure the safety of personnel, equipment and production.

We want to hear from you. Questions, opinions and suggestions are all welcomed by the Rigzone Staff. Write us at .

Hurricane Season 2008: Going Gets Tough, Owners Get Tougher
by Kerry Laird
Rigzone 4/9/2008

While the hurricane season may be tough, operators and owners of offshore operations are even tougher. Safety procedures and evacuation plans ensure that platforms and personnel are well-protected in the event of a hurricane.

For ExxonMobil, the beginning of hurricane season is a little like spring cleaning. "We update response plans, train personnel [and] initiate ongoing hurricane activity monitoring," said ExxonMobil spokesperson Margaret Ross. Ross told Rigzone that the most important aspect of hurricane preparedness is the protection of ExxonMobil personnel.

Understandably, the human life quotient is the most valuable one for all companies.

As the largest deepwater producer in the Gulf of Mexico, Anadarko Petroleum has a lot on the line when hurricanes approach offshore operations.

"Our primary concern is the safety of our employees and contractors," Anadarko spokesperson John Christiansen said. "We monitor the weather very closely in the Gulf of Mexico and will evacuate our platforms and drilling operations as soon as we perceive there may be a threat to their safety."

Christiansen added that several of Anadarko's platforms have taken direct hits from category four and five hurricanes.

"We have a lot of confidence in the robust construction of our deepwater facilities," he said.

Enterprise Products Partners representatives Rick Rainey and Randy Burkhalter also spoke with Rigzone about the possibility of a torrential hurricane season. They revealed that the Gulf of Mexico's deepest platform, Independence Hub, which is owned by Enterprise, can stand up to category 5 hurricane wind speeds.

"Some of our newest platforms, like Marco Polo and Atlantis, can also withstand category 5 hurricane winds," said Rainey. He added that the "plans in place" for approaching hurricanes occur in stages, "With each level of intensity, [safety procedures] increase."

While there can be water damage, Burkhalter said the platforms are "engineered so that critical parts can be secured" to minimize, even eliminate, wind damage.

Deepwater RUPE, a collaborative effort in its sophomore year, incorporates $12 million of "specialized pipeline repair systems and equipment stored in the Gulf of Mexico region" to facilitate quicker deepwater pipeline repairs.

"Deepwater RUPE reduces lead times on pipeline repairs," limiting production downtime, said Burkhalter.

Enterprise collaborated with Enbridge, BP Exploration and Production and Eni SpA to bring into fruition the Deepwatr RUPE project. Between the four companies, one-fourth of the Gulf's total pipeline mileage is covered.

"This program is modeled after successful shallow water RUPE that has been in place for about 30 years and involves a co-ownership group consisting of about 30 members," said Ray Ayers of Stress Subsea, Inc. in a 2007 press release "This new DW RUPE gives us the capability to significantly expand our capabilities beyond the original 1,000 foot limit." Ayers added that the value of having co-owned systems and tools available, which was apparent during Hurricane Katrina, should be equally valuable in helping to assure the flow of domestic energy supplies from deepwater assets.

We want to hear from you. Questions, opinions and suggestions are all welcomed by the Rigzone Staff. Write us at .

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I am interested in CNG vehicles because they are good for the environment and aren't powered by dead Marines. I still have a little hope for the world. Read the musings and enjoy.

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