Gulf pipeline damage keeps service vessels busy

Severe damage caused by Hurricane Ivan in September continues to affect oil and natural gas production in the Gulf of Mexico. The Minerals Management Service (MMS) says the region’s full productive capacity may not be online for months. 

The situation is a mixed blessing for offshore service vessel operators that work in the Gulf. Some vessel operators have seen increased work while others have lost work due to damaged platforms or rigs they were servicing.

P.B. Candies, traffic manager at Otto Candies LLC, Des Allemands, La., said his company is seeing some extra work for damage surveys followed by repair and construction work. “Some companies that have platforms with helideck damage are using workboats until the helideck is repaired and the operator can resume transporting workers and supplies with helicopters,” he said. 

Candies added that some vessel operators are seeing some work disappear as the platforms they were servicing are temporarily out of commission or perhaps gone entirely. For example, three of Noble Energy’s platforms in the path of Hurricane Ivan were reported missing by the company.

Bill Guice, vice president, sales and marketing for Rigdon Marine, Houston, agreed. He said some vessel operators are seeing increased survey and repair work, especially on the survey side and primarily for pipeline operators.

“On the other hand,” Guice noted, “the damage to some platforms and some drilling rigs has postponed drilling programs.

“Deepwater vessels that were on charter during the hurricane are most likely still on charter,” he continued. “If they were attached to a facility that was damaged, then the operator of that facility is most likely going to retain those vessels to assist in repairs, subsea inspection, ROV work, etc.”

Guice said that Hurricane Ivan has not provided his company with additional opportunities, “perhaps because our boats were already on contract.”

As a result of Hurricane Ivan, 575 manned platforms and 69 drilling rigs were evacuated. The MMS estimates that 150 platforms (not all are manned) and 10,000 miles of pipelines were in the direct path of Hurricane Ivan. 

A substantial amount of deferred production is directly attributable to damage along pipeline routes rather than actual damage to producing platforms. 

Pipelines in mudslide areas off the mouth of the Mississippi River experienced failures. These pipelines could take a significant effort to locate and repair. Some of the pipelines are buried in as much as 20 to 30 feet of mud.

Although both Shell and British Petroleum have restored equipment and facilities producing over 250,000 bbls. per day, the MMS says that it could take up to a year to get production numbers back up to pre-Ivan levels.

As of Nov. 5, shut-in oil production was equivalent to 12.49 percent of the daily production of oil in the Gulf, which is approximately 1.7 million bpd. The 212,369 bbls. per day that was shut-in as of Nov. 5 represents approximately 1.08 percent of the 19.7 million bbls. consumed in the U.S. each day.

The shut-in gas production is equivalent to 6.03 percent of the daily production of gas in the Gulf, which is approximately 12.3 bcf.  The 742.16 mmcf per day that is shut-in as of Nov. 5 is approximately 1.23 percent of the 60.184 bcf consumed in the U.S. each day.       — Jerry Greenberg 


 

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