MMS Says Operators Beginning Evacuation Preparations for Erin

Offshore oil and gas operators in the Gulf of Mexico have begun evacuating platforms and rigs and have shut-in oil and natural gas production in the path of Tropical Storm Erin.

Based on data from offshore operator reports submitted to the MMS, personnel have been evacuated from a total of five production platforms, equivalent to 0.6 percent of the 834 manned platforms in the Gulf of Mexico.

Personnel from one rig have also been evacuated; this is equivalent to one percent of the 100 rigs currently operating in the Gulf.

From the operators' reports, it is estimated that approximately 0.0 percent of the oil production in the Gulf has been shut-in. Estimated oil production from the Gulf of Mexico as of April 2007 was 1.3 million barrels of oil per day. It is also estimated that approximately 0.06 percent of the natural gas production in the Gulf has been shut-in, roughly 5 million cubic feet of gas per day. Estimated natural gas production from the Gulf of Mexico as of April 2007 was 7.7 billion cubic feet of gas per day.

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 Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, the shut-in valves functioned 100 percent of the time, efficiently closing in production from wells and resulting in no major spills from the Outer Continental Shelf. Shutting-in oil and gas production is a standard procedure conducted by industry for safety and environmental reasons.

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 MMS compares to historical production reports to ensure the estimates follow a logical pattern.

After the storm 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 National Hurricane Center expects Tropical Storm Erin to make landfall Thursday morning, earlier than initially expected, causing heavy rainfall in Corpus Christi, Texas.

The center previously predicted that the storm would hit the Texas Coast late Thursday or early Friday. However, the storm strengthened and "re-formed" closer to the coast, according to Eric Blake, a meteorologist with the center.

The storm will likely affect cities in Texas from Brownsville through Corpus Christi, he said. The shape of the storm will almost certainly result in heavy rains in Corpus Christi, he said.

Flooding could affect shipping channels, which are used to bring crude to refineries, as well as the operations of processing units that produce gasoline and diesel fuel.

Corpus Christi has three major refineries, which can process a total of about a half million barrels of crude a day. As of Wednesday afternoon, the three refineries had not stopped operating ahead of the storm.

Company: Minerals Management Service (MMS) more info
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