It may behoove Gulf of Mexico producers to consider scheduling a month-long sabbatical every September. For the second consecutive year, operators have spent nearly more time waiting on weather and cleaning up after storms than actually producing oil and gas.

The Department of Energy’s (DOE) Energy Information Administration (EIA) says average Gulf of Mexico oil production in September 2021 is expected to drop by 500,000 bbl/d, following Hurricane Ida that made landfall in Louisiana on Aug. 29. The Cat 4 storm also knocked out a third of offshore gas production. As of Sept. 23, operators had yet to return personnel to 31 normally manned production platforms, according to the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE).

Leading deepwater producer, Shell Offshore, said its Mars and Ursa production platforms will remain offline until the first quarter of 2022, while the Olympus platform should return to service by year-end 2021. Shell cited extensive damage to the West Delta-143 A platform, one of the corridor’s primary production transfer facilities. In a Sept. 20 update, Shell said nearly 60% of its Gulf of Mexico production had been restored.

During an especially stormy September 2020, an average of nearly 222,499 bbl/d of oil and just under 525,500 Mcfd of gas were intermittently shut-in from up to 147 platforms, according to BSEE data. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said 10 named storms formed in September 2020, the most for any single month on record.

Hurricane Ida made a direct hit on the deepwater Gulf’s primary service and supply base at Port Fourchon, La., with wind gusts in excess of 190 mph and 12’ to 14’ storm surges, according to the Greater Lafourche Port Commission (GLPC). The port remained largely out of service for most of September with power not expected to be restored until Sept. 29, GLPC said.

Meanwhile, a mere four rigs were at work in the Gulf of Mexico on Sept. 17, according to Baker Hughes.  

Of the 14 rigs active pre-Ida, the ultradeepwater drillship Noble Globetrotter II will remain out of service for damage assessment and repairs after an inexplicable delay in getting off location left some 142 crewmembers to ride out the storm before being evacuated by the Coast Guard after landfall.

Contractor Noble Corp. has not stated publicly why the rig remained in Ida’s path, but reports have since circulated blaming the rapid escalation of the storm and the longer-than-expected time to shut-in the well.

Jim Redden is a Houston-based independent journalist, specializing in the oil and gas and associated energy sectors. He has more than 47 years of diverse communications experience, ranging from newspaper and magazine reporter and editor to corporate communicator. Redden holds a BA degree in journalism from Marshall University in Huntington, W.Va. He can be reached at [email protected]

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