Offshore oil and gas operators in the Gulf of Mexico are evacuating platforms and rigs in the path of Hurricane Alex. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation, and Enforcement's (BOEMRE) Continuity of Operations Plan team is monitoring the operators' activities. This team will be activated until operations return to normal and the storm is no longer a threat to the Gulf of Mexico oil and gas activities.
Based on data from offshore operator reports submitted as of 11:30 a.m. CDT June 30, personnel have been evacuated from a total of 74 production platforms, equivalent to 11.7 % of the 634 manned platforms in the Gulf of Mexico. Production platforms are the structures located offshore from which oil and natural gas are produced. These structures remain in the same location throughout a project's duration unlike drilling rigs which typically move from location to location.
Personnel from eight rigs have also been evacuated; this is equivalent to 15.7 % of the 51 rigs currently operating in the Gulf. Rigs can include several types of self-contained offshore drilling facilities including jackups, submersibles and semisubmersibles.
Neither the drilling rigs nor the containment vessels involved in the BP oil spill response have been required to evacuate or halt operations.
As part of the evacuation process, personnel activate the shut-in procedure, which can also be accomplished from a remote location. This involves closing the safety valves located below the surface of the ocean to prevent the release of oil or gas. During the recent hurricane seasons, the shut-in valves functioned 100 percent of the time, efficiently closing in production from wells on the Outer Continental Shelf and protecting the marine and coastal environments. Shutting-in oil and gas production is a standard procedure conducted by industry for safety and environmental reasons.
From the operators' reports, it is estimated that approximately 26.33 % of the oil production in the Gulf has been shut-in. It is also estimated that approximately 14.36 % of the natural gas production in the Gulf has been shut-in. Estimated energy production from the Gulf of Mexico as of March 2010 is 1.6 million barrels of oil per day and 6.4 billion cubic feet of gas per day.
The production percentages are calculated using information submitted by offshore operators in daily reports. Shut-in production information included in these reports is based on what the operator expected to produce that day. The shut-in production figures therefore are estimates, which the BOEM compares to historical production reports to ensure the estimates follow a logical pattern.
After the hurricane has passed, facilities will be inspected. Once all standard checks have been completed, production from undamaged facilities will be brought back on line immediately. Facilities sustaining damage may take longer to bring back on line. The BOEM will continue to update the evacuation and shut-in statistics at 1:00 p.m. CDT each day until these statistics are no longer significant.
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