Hurricane season no match for Gulf momentum

In early 2010, the U.S. Gulf of Mexico oil and gas industry was mounting a comeback from yet another down cycle. All indicators pointed toward a resurgence in oil and gas production in the coming months and years. But in April 2010, an explosion beneath the Deepwater Horizon platform led to the largest oil spill in U.S. history and slammed the door on the industry’s building momentum. Over the next year, drilling permits were almost impossible to come by because of new application regulations imposed by the Bureau of Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEM).

By mid-2011, however, the industry had embraced the new rules — it’s been like a cobra embracing a mongoose — and deepwater oil and gas production began to build momentum again. Since then, the industry has been on a roll.

When hurricane season began in June of this year, it seemed to pose a real threat by way of possible disruption of Gulf activity. After all, when a storm gets into the Gulf, offshore structures in the storm’s projected path must be evacuated, a process that takes lots of time and effort. Once the storm has passed, it takes a while to ramp-up again.

So, when Philip Klotzbach and William Gray of Colorado State University released their early forecast for the upcoming June through November hurricane season in April, it got rig and OSV operators’ attention.

Sea surface temperatures were running above normal across the tropical north Atlantic, which are the breeding grounds for tropical storms and hurricanes. Warm sea surface temperatures provide the energy needed to create and sustain hurricanes.

For the U.S. Gulf Coast, they predicted a 47 percent chance of a major hurricane (Category 3 to 5) making landfall, somewhere between the Florida Panhandle and Brownsville, Texas. The average chance of such storms making landfall for the past century is 30 percent.

So far, there have been four named storms in the Gulf of Mexico this hurricane season, three of which prowled the extreme southwestern waters of the Gulf before coming ashore in thinly populated western Mexico. The only storm to hit the U.S. coast this year was Tropical Storm Andrea, which went ashore in June in Steinhatchee, Fla., along Florida’s Gulf Coast.

There are a number of reasons why this hurricane season has been such a dud, including a large area of dry air off the African Coast that’s been sitting there for months.

But who cares why? It all adds up to good fortune for the Gulf oil and gas industry, which is on a streak that would make any crapshooter envious. Let it ride.


About the author

Ken Hocke

Ken Hocke has been the senior editor of WorkBoat since 1999. He was the associate editor of WorkBoat from 1997 to 1999. Prior to that, he was the editor of the Daily Shipping Guide, a transportation daily in New Orleans. He has written for other publications including The Times-Picayune. He graduated from Louisiana State University with an arts and sciences degree, with a concentration in English, in 1978.

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