Hurricane Claudette Causes More Natural Gas Supply Cuts

Pipeline operators in the Gulf of Mexico said Tuesday that Hurricane Claudette had forced offshore natural gas producers to cut more supplies from their systems as platform crews were evacuated ahead of the storm.

Sources said the volume of gas production shut Tuesday was likely to exceed 2 billion cubic feet, or about 15 percent of the 14 bcf produced daily from the region's offshore rigs. The U.S. Minerals Management Service had estimated that approximately 1 billion cubic feet of natural gas would be cut.

Williams Cos. reported the biggest production cuts of 1 billion cubic feet on its huge 7.7 bcf/d Transco pipeline system. The cuts were up from 400 million cubic feet a day reported Monday. "We're still seeing production losses. We don't anticipate any interruption of market area deliveries. We're utilizing storage and line pack to keep deliveries whole," a company spokesman said, adding he expected to see some output back by Wednesday afternoon.

Duke Energy said producers had cut about 400 million cubic feet of supply from its 5.9 bcfd Texas Eastern pipeline system, up sharply from just 38 mmcf Monday. Florida Gas Transmission, jointly owned by Enron Corp. and El Paso, said about 200 mmcf had been trimmed on its 2.1 bcfd system that flows gas from Texas to Florida and interconnects with several major interstate lines.

The Minerals Management Service estimated that from Friday through Monday, U.S. Gulf of Mexico gas producers had shut in a total of 2.4 bcfd as a precaution against the storm. Thirty-seven rigs and 190 platforms were also evacuated. With further cuts today and some gas likely to still be shut in Wednesday as crews slowly return to offshore platforms, industry sources estimate Claudette will trim more than 6 bcf of Gulf of Mexico gas output.