Storms in Gulf of Mexico Spur Preventative Measures Offshore
Hit with a one-two punch, the hurricane season for the Gulf of Mexico had been quiet for 2007 – that was until Tropical Storm Erin and Hurricane Dean. Tropical Storm Erin, which hit the southern coast of Texas on Thursday, was quickly followed by the looming threat of Hurricane Dean. Currently labeled a Category Four hurricane, Dean is expected to hit Belize and Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula Monday evening.
Passing over the islands of St. Lucia and Dominica, Hurricane Dean has already been blamed for the deaths of three people: an elderly man, as well as a mother and her seven-year-old son.
According to the National Hurricane Center, Hurricane Dean is located about 125 miles southwest of Grand Cayman. Currently traveling west-northwest, Hurricane Dean contains sustained winds of 150 mph with hurricane-force winds extending outward up to 60 miles. The storm is expected to reach a Category Five on the Saffir-Simpson scale within 24 hours.
These storms have already taken a negative affect on the oil and gas industry, specifically on production in the Gulf of Mexico. The Minerals Management Service (MMS), which monitors oil and gas production in the Gulf of Mexico, reported that 13 platforms and five drilling rigs were evacuated of all personnel due to Tropical Storm Erin.
MMS announced Friday that it activated its Continuity of Operations Plan for Hurricane Dean. The plan was put into place to monitor the affect the storm will have on oil and gas production. The group reports that companies have begun evacuating Gulf of Mexico rigs and platforms, as well as shut-in oil and gas production, in preparation for the storm and to prevent any safety or environmental issues.
The MMS announced Sunday that the staff from six production platforms in the Gulf of Mexico were evacuated, while personnel from three rigs had been evacuated. MMS reported that approximately 1.8 percent of the Gulf of Mexico’s oil production, or about 23,000 barrels of oil per day, had been shut-in by Sunday. It also estimated that about 0.7 percent of the natural gas production in the Gulf of Mexico had been shut-in, which is about 54 million cubic feet of gas a day.
By Monday morning, Noble Corporation, an international contract drilling services company, evacuated approximately 650 people from its six deepwater rigs in the Gulf of Mexico. “We’ve evacuated all of our deepwater gulf fleet as of now,” said John Breed, Noble Corporation’s spokesman. While the company’s No. 1 priority of safety hasn’t changed over the years, the trend toward deepwater has affected the company’s logistics for evacuating its personnel, he explained. It takes more time to evacuate the rigs because they are farther away, so the decision to evacuate is made earlier.
Hurricane Dean is the first hurricane for the 2007 Atlantic hurricane season, which spans June through November. As many as nine hurricanes have been predicted to form during this year’s hurricane season.