Rita Sinks Offshore Rigs; Capsizes Tension Leg Platform

Rita may have landed at Sabine Pass as a category 3 hurricane but she plowed through Gulf of Mexico offshore oilfields at a Category 5 level knocking down jackjup rigs and setting deepwater floating rigs adrift.

As storm generated seas rose to meet the US Gulf continental shelf drilling rigs and fixed production platforms were severely damaged and in some cases sunk. The Rowan Companies jackup fleet appears to have taken a hard hit from Rita. The hull of the Rowan Louisiana was found aground on the Louisiana coastline. The Halifax and Odessa were moved off of their drilling locations sustaining undetermined damages and the Rowan Fort Worth is still off the radar screen. The four rigs were drilling under contracts providing Rowan revenues of $210,000 per day. Early reports suggest that Global SantaFe may have lost jackup rigs GSF Adriatic VII and GSF High Island III. The two missing jackup rigs are insured for a total of $125 million. One of Hercules Offshore's jackup rigs, Hercules 21, is listing precariously at Main Pass Block 21.

Deepwater rigs in the Green Canyon area due South of Houma, Louisiana, had to deal with Rita generated 155 mph winds and 60 foot seas. From early field reports it is clear that some did not fare so well. Noble Drilling's semi-submersible rig Max Smith broke its mooring lines and sustained some structural damage to one of the starboard columns. The rig was under contract to BHP at Green Canyon 238. At Green Canyon Block 236 hurricane Rita also broke Chevron's TLP named (irony upon irony) " Typhoon". A fixed wing aerial survey on Sunday located the Max Smith in the West Cameron Area and Chevron's Typhoon floating upside-down in Eugene Island Block 273 some 80 miles from their original locations. Rita moved another Noble Semi, the Noble Therald Martin, from Green Canyon 236 to Vermillion Block 214, but according to reports the rig suffered only minor damage.

Diamond Offshore Drilling owned semi-submersible rigs Ocean Saratoga and Ocean Star broke free from their moorings as Hurricane Rita passed west of both rigs. The Saratoga is currently grounded in approximately 35 feet of water in Vermilion block 111, about 100 miles northwest of the rig's original location at Green Canyon block 157. The Star is also aground on the Louisiana coastline in Eugene Island block 142, one hundred miles north of its original Green Canyon block 768 drilling location.

Mobile offshore drilling units were not the only casualties. Fixed platforms in South Timbalier, East Cameron and Vermillion were also reportedly lost. If these early reports are any indication of the total offshore facilities damage caused by Rita, natural gas and oil prices will be moving up smartly to new highs in the weeks ahead.

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