Platforms evacuated, ports close in face of Harvey

(Updated, 3:43 p.m., Sunday, Aug. 27, 2017)

Energy companies have evacuated 105 offshore production platforms in the western Gulf of Mexico as of Sunday morning as a result of Hurricane Harvey, the most powerful hurricane to strike the U.S. in 12 years.

National Hurricane Center forecasters said Harvey could meander for days along the coastal region, possibly even swinging back out to sea and then making a second landfall.

With widespread flooding expected in urban and suburban areas, Coast Guard Western River Flood Punt teams moved their equipment shallow-draft rescue boats toward three staging areas in Texas and Louisiana.

Coast Guard Marine Safety Unit Huntington Western River Flood Punt Team making preparations to get underway near Clendenin, West Virginia, June 24, 2016. Coast Guard photo

Coast Guard Marine Safety Unit Huntington Western River Flood Punt Team making preparations to get underway near Clendenin, W. Va., last year. Coast Guard photo

The scenario could bring a major disruption to the energy industry, given the concentration of transport and refining infrastructure in the region that produces a third of the nation’s petroleum products. Despite years of warning, the Houston area is highly vulnerable to hurricane surge and has suffered mounting problems with urban flooding.

Based on data from offshore operator reports submitted as of 11:30 CDT Sunday, personnel have been evacuated from a total of 105 production platforms, 14.25% of the 737 manned platforms in the Gulf of Mexico. Personnel have been evacuated from five rigs (non-dynamically positioned (DP) rig), equivalent to 50% of the 10 rigs of this type currently operating in the Gulf, and one of the 21 DP rigs in operation had to move from the storm’s path, according to the BSEE.

With sub-surface safety valves closed on those wells, it is estimated that approximately 21.64% of the current oil production of 1.75 milion bbls. of oil per day in the Gulf of Mexico has been shut-in, which equates to 378,633 bbls. of oil per day. It is also estimated that approximately 25.71% of the natural gas production of 3.22 million cubic feet per day, or 827.89 million cubic feet per day in the Gulf of Mexico has been shut-in, BSEE said.

Coast Guard officials said that as the storm was building Friday afternoon, aircrews rescued 12 people aboard a disabled dive service vessel near Port Mansfield, Texas.

Coast Guard Sector Corpus Christi watchstanders received a report at 3:40 a.m. of the 166’x40’x14’ DSV Gulf Justice taking on water with 12 people aboard.

Watchstanders ordered two MH-65 Dolphin helicopters from Air Station Corpus Christi at 12:40 p.m., after plans for commercial assistance from a tug fell through because the tug could not get underway. Watchstanders had  maintained hourly communication with the vessel operator throughout the morning and afternoon.

 

A Coast Guard helicopter approached the disable DSV Gulf Justice off Port Mansfield, Texas, Aug. 25, 2017. Coast Guard photo.

A Coast Guard helicopter approached the disable DSV Gulf Justice off Port Mansfield, Texas, Aug. 25, 2017. Coast Guard photo.

The aircrews arrived on scene at 1:03 p.m. and hoisted seven people from the Gulf Justice and transferred them to Charles R Johnson Airport in Port Mansfield, Texas The aircrews returned to hoist the remaining five people at 2:06 p.m. and transferred them to the airport.

The Coast Guard continued response efforts the next day. Coast Guard Air Station Corpus Christi aircrews rescued 20 people and a dog after they received reports from watchstanders Saturday morning and afternoon. For more information, please visit our newsroom at http://www.news.uscg.mil/Texas/.

“Our Coast Guard members prepare on a daily basis for anything that may come their way,” said Capt. Kevin Oditt, incident commander, incident command post Houston-Galveston. “Anytime the Coast guard is not conducting a mission, they are training. They are professionals.”

Coast Guard Sector Houston-Galveston and Coast Guard Sector Corpus Christi captains of the port have set port condition zulu for the ports of Houston, Texas City, Galveston, Freeport and Corpus Christi except for Port Brownsville, which reopened Saturday morning. For more information about port condition zulu for Sector Houston-Galveston, please visit, https://goo.gl/emQeQB.

“We are preparing to open ports once the storm has passed or weather conditions permit,” said Oditt. “The wind conditions and sea state determines port conditions.”

Three Coast Guard Western River Flood Punt teams, who use shallow-draft vessels that are capable of responding in flooded urban areas, have arrived at Sector Houston-Galveston and three are en route to the Sector.

Coast Guard assets deployed to Houston include:

  • Three 29-foot response boat-small (RB-S) from Coast Guard Station Houston.
  • Three 29-foot (RB-S) from Coast Guard Station Lake Jackson.
  • Two 29-foot (RB-S) and five 45-foot response boat-medium from Coast Guard Station Galveston.
  • An 87-foot patrol boat from Coast Guard Sector Louisiana.
  • Six MH-65 Dolphin helicopters assigned to Coast Guard Air Station Houston.
  • One MH-65 Dolphin helicopters assigned to Coast Guard Lake Jackson

About the author

Kirk Moore

Associate Editor Kirk Moore was a reporter for the Asbury Park Press for over 30 years before joining WorkBoat in 2015. He wrote several award-winning stories on marine, environmental, coastal and military issues that helped drive federal and state government policy changes. He has also been a field editor for WorkBoat’s sister publication, National Fisherman, for almost 25 years. Moore was awarded the Online News Association 2011 Knight Award for Public Service for the “Barnegat Bay Under Stress,” 2010 series that led to the New Jersey state government’s restoration plan. He lives in West Creek, N.J.

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