The People of America's Oil and Natural Gas Indusry

Hurricane Season Preparedness

Mark Green

Mark Green
Posted June 3, 2013

Fox Business News reports that because of surging shale energy development, overall oil production in the U.S. has become less susceptible to disruption from Gulf of Mexico hurricanes – even as the hurricane season officially opened over the weekend. Fox:

The U.S. is less dependent on production in the federal Gulf of Mexico, where hurricanes are more likely to cause disruptions. In 1997, 26% of the nation’s natural gas was produced there. By 2012, the Gulf of Mexico’s share fell to 6%. Oil production has also made a big shift to inland basins, thanks to booming shale plays in North Dakota and Texas.  The Gulf’s share of crude oil production in the U.S. narrowed to 19% last year from 26% in 2007 to 2011.Therefore, the impact of hurricanes on oil and natural gas production has been lessened by the shale oil boom taking place further inland.

Even so, America’s oil and natural gas industry remains committed to safety – the safety of its workers and facilities, as well as the environment – with the arrival of the hurricane season. According to government weathercasters, there’s a 70 percent chance of between 13 and 20 named storms in the Atlantic basin, seven to 11 of which might strengthen to hurricanes. Of that second group, three to six might turn into major hurricanes. Here’s a chart from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) showing the outlook range and the actual number of named storms and hurricanes 2003-2012 and the 2013 forecast:

EIA Hurricane Outlook

The graphic underscores the need for readiness. The states of Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Texas and Mississippi have more than a half-million petroleum industry employees. Thus, API plays two primary roles in hurricane preparedness: (1) Helps industry better understand environmental conditions in and around the Gulf during hurricane season or tropical storm activity, to help make offshore and onshore facilities less vulnerable; (2) works with member companies, other industries and governments to prepare for hurricanes and return energy operations as quickly and safely as possible. Measures include:

  • Evacuation of non-essential personnel days before a tropical storm or hurricane reaches drilling and production operations.
  • Relocation of drill ships to safe areas.
  • “Flyovers” of onshore and offshore facilities to assess storm impact, such as flooding, facility damage, road or other infrastructure problems and spills. Many offshore rigs have GPS locator systems that let federal officials and drilling contractors monitor the rigs remotely before, during and after a hurricane.
  • Refiners work with utilities to clarify priorities for electric power restoration, which is critical to restarting operations and minimizing disruptions to fuel distribution and delivery.
  • Secure backup power generation equipment to ensure that critical refinery and pipeline infrastructure will have backup supply.
  • Work with vendors to pre-position food, water and transportation.

Even with shale development’s impact, we’re still talking about significant levels of oil and natural gas production from the Gulf – and half of U.S. refining capacity is located on the Gulf Coast. The readiness activities above and more help protect lives and important national energy infrastructure, as well as the environment. For more information, see API’s hurricane information fact sheet.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mark Green joined API after a career in newspaper journalism, including 16 years as national editorial writer for The Oklahoman in the paper’s Washington bureau. Mark also was a reporter, copy editor and sports editor. He earned his journalism degree from the University of Oklahoma and master’s in journalism and public affairs from American University. He and his wife Pamela live in Occoquan, Va., where they enjoy their four grandchildren.