WASHINGTON, DC, Oct. 5 -- Offshore oil and gas operations in the Gulf of Mexico survived the one-two punch of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita reasonably well, with no loss of life or significant spills, Sec. of the Interior Gale Norton said Oct. 4.
Of the 4,000 platforms that the Department of Interior's Minerals Management Service administers, 3,050 were in the paths of the hurricanes, she told reporters at a Washington briefing.
A preliminary damage assessment indicates that 108 of the older "end of life" structures not built to MMS's upgraded design standards were destroyed, according to Norton. They represented 1.7% of the Gulf's oil production and 0.9% of its gas production.
A further 53 structures suffered significant damage. As a result, said Norton, only a small share of Gulf of Mexico production is expected to be permanently lost.
Major new facilities did better, with only one destroyed and four significantly damaged. "Those offshore facilities that withstood the storms best were those constructed to the 1988 MMS upgraded design standards," said Norton.
She said that of all the platforms built after the 1988 upgrades, only one was significantly damaged. "We are currently working to determine whether that damage was a result of the storm itself or another facility colliding with it," she said.
Norton said offshore production employees, including some who lost their homes and possessions in the storm, are returning to the installations and preparing them to resume production.
She noted that MMS has taken a number of actions to facilitate the restoration of production in the gulf, including expediting review of requests for temporary barging of oil or flaring of small amounts of natural gas; expediting approvals for pipeline repairs; waiving of cost recovery fees until January 2006; and maintaining continuous operations in the gulf area despite evacuation and relocation of the MMS New Orleans office and damage to district offices.
Figures released Oct. 4 by MMS indicate that currently 90% of oil production and 72% of gas production in the gulf remains shut in. Also 342, or 42%, of platforms are still unmanned, while 17 of 134 drilling rigs, or 13%, remain evacuated. Current information will continue to be posted on the agency's web site as it is collected and verified.
Contact Nick Snow at [email protected].