With Harvey, we got lucky

As Hurricane Harvey barreled along the Gulf of Mexico coast, it was hard to say how bad the situation might get as the first Category 4 hurricane since Hurricane Charley in 2004 plowed through the Gulf. Expectations were that it could be devastating.

Onshore, in flooded Houston, south Texas and surrounding areas, it was. But offshore, it could have been much worse.

As the storm approached, offshore operators began to adjust operations to prepare for the storm, as did onshore operators close to the coast. Among those preparations:

  • On Aug. 23, Shell shut in production on its Perdido and Enchilada Salsa platforms and evacuated Perdido personnel to shore.
  • On Aug. 23, Anadarko shut in production and evacuated workers from its Boomvang, Gunnicon, Lucius and Nansen platforms, followed by similar shutdowns of its Constitution, Heidelberg and Holstein platforms on Aug. 25.
  • On Aug. 23, ExxonMobil began reducing production on its Hoover platform, followed by an August 24 shut in of production and personnel evacuation of their Galveston 209 platform.
  • On Aug. 24, Williams Companies said it had evacuated all offshore personnel.

Workers were evacuated from 112 oil and gas platforms in the Gulf of Mexico, out of 737 manned platforms.

Similar activity took place onshore. Statoil began evacuation of its Eagle Ford shale operations on Aug. 24, although wells were not shut in at that time. MarathonConocoPhillipsPioneer Natural GasEOGBHP BillitonNoble Energy and Exxon Mobil made similar preparations in the Eagle Ford.

Onshore also witnessed the closure of refineries from the Corpus Christi, Texas, area up the coast to the Houston, Beaumont and Port Arthur area. Natural gas processing plants in the same areas were shut down.

Nearly 25% of oil production (430,000 bbls. per day) and 26% of natural gas production in the Gulf of Mexico was shut in in anticipation of Harvey, as well as a substantial portion of the refining (900,000 bbls. per day) and gas processing industry along the coast.

The preparations were more than adequate. At the end of the day, damage to the offshore infrastructure, and to the offshore fleet that services them was minimal. Three offshore tugs broke loose in the Lydia Ann Moorings facility in Corpus Christi Harbor, one of which sunk while the other two beached. In addition, a Paragon Offshore drillship broke it moorings and beached at the Gulf entrance to the ship channel, closing the Port of Corpus Christi.

More importantly, evacuations and storm management prevented the loss life in the offshore and service vessel industries due to Hurricane Harvey.

Due to minimal damage, recovery should be swift with little, if any, damage in term of day rates. Only a few minor questions remain. Principal among them is whether Harvey Gulf will rename its Harvey Hurricane platform supply vessel.

About the author

Dr. William J. Pike

Dr. William J. Pike has 45 years experience in the upstream oil and gas industry, including more than 20 years in oil and gas drilling and production operations, both onshore and offshore. He has worked in the U.S., Canada, Britain, Europe and Russia as a technical and economic advisor to the energy industries and various governmental agencies. Pike was editor-in-chief and editorial director for Hart Energy Publishing’s E&P magazine and was also the editor of the Journal of Petroleum Technology, the official publication of the Society of Petroleum Engineers. He holds a doctorate in energy economics from the University of Aberdeen in Scotland.

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