Hurricane Season 2008: Going Gets Tough, Owners Get Tougher

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.

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