The People of America's Oil and Natural Gas Indusry

Hurricane Ida in the Gulf

Jane Van Ryan

Jane Van Ryan
Posted November 9, 2009

At least three oil companies announced yesterday they were shutting in some production as Ida began to bear down on oil and natural gas facilities in the Gulf of Mexico. BP, Chevron and Marathon reduced production and evacuated some of their offshore facilities. Also, the Louisiana Offshore Oil Port (LOOP) stopped offloading tankers as sea conditions began to deteriorate.

At 9:00 a.m. central time this morning, Ida was downgraded to a tropical storm. According to a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) bulletin, the storm is expected make landfall along the northern Gulf coast on Tuesday morning and turn east, delivering heavy rain to the Southeast portion of the United States.

Whenever there is a threat from a hurricane or tropical storm, the oil and natural gas industry takes steps to ensure the safety of its workers and the protection of the environment. Companies with offshore operations and onshore refineries in the affected area move non-essential personnel onshore and begin the process of shutting down. As the storm gets closer, all remaining personnel is removed from drilling rigs and platforms.

After the storm has passed, operators initiate "flyovers" of onshore and offshore facilities to identify flooding, damage, road or other problems. Once safety concerns are addressed, operators send assessment crews to the facilities to physically assess any damage that might have occurred. If facilities are not damaged, operations can be restarted and drilling rigs can commence operations.

Although the 2009 hurricane season has been relatively quiet, 2008 was active with 16 named storms, eight of which were hurricanes. The two most serious were Hurricanes Ike and Gustav. At the peak of the storm-related disruptions, more than 20 percent of U.S. refinery capacity was idled.

For more information on oil and natural gas industry hurricane preparedness, listen to two episodes of Energy Tomorrow Radio below. The first episode, ETR 82, explains offshore preparations; the second, ETR 87, describes how onshore facilities prepare for major storms.