Hurricanes Destroy 109 Oil Platforms

Hurricane Rita did the most damage in the Gulf of Mexico, which produces nearly one-third of US crude oil imports, Interior Secretary Gale Norton said. Rita destroyed 63 platforms and one drilling rig on Sept 24, she said.

In August, Hurricane Katrina destroyed 46 platforms and four drilling rigs when it hit the Gulf. Katrina also caused extensive damage to another 20 platforms and nine drilling rigs. Rita seriously damaged 30 platforms and 10 drilling rigs.

'We had altogether, with both of the hurricanes, about 2,900 platforms that were in the path of the hurricanes,' she said. 'We have no official estimate of the dollar value of the damage and the amount that it will cost to repair those facilities, but it will clearly be in the billions of dollars.'

In advance of the hurricanes, crude oil production ground to a halt as Gulf sites were evacuated. A total of 342 platforms remain evacuated, roughly 40 per cent of the manned sites in the Gulf, Ms Norton said. As a result, 90 per cent of crude production and 72 per cent of natural gas output is paralyzed, she said.

But Ms Norton also stressed that only one of the damaged platforms was built after federal construction standards were tightened in 1988. The ones that were destroyed were nearing the end of their lives. 'As a result, only a very small percentage of production is expected to be permanently lost,' she added.