U.S. Offshore Oil Sector Recovers Slowly After Hurricane Ida

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Published Sep 8, 2021 1:22 AM by The Maritime Executive

Hurricane Ida's effects continue to hamper oil production in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico, and some offshore oil and gas companies may be looking at weeks of assessment, repair and restart efforts to resume operations at some facilities. 

The U.S. Gulf offshore sector shut in more than 90 percent of its production capacity before the arrival of the storm, and more than a week later, that number has barely budged. 79 percent of the Gulf's oil output remains shut in, according to the latest numbers from the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement. Out of the 560 manned production platforms in the Gulf, 79 are still evacuated and have not been re-staffed. 

Oil major Shell said in a statement last week that an aerial survey identified damage aboard its West Delta-143 shallow-water platform, a key transfer hub for its production from the Mars, Olympus and Ursa tension leg platforms located further offshore. All three of these TLPs are still offline, Shell said. WD-143 normally handles about 200,000 barrels per day of crude production, more than 10 percent of the total amount produced in the U.S. Gulf.

Shell said that it is in the process of re-manning two other production platforms. However, the restart schedule for its offshore facilities will be dependent on the readiness of the pipelines and other infrastructure needed to transport its production, the company said. 

Drilling activity has also been affected. Four out of the 11 active non-DP drilling rigs in the region are still evacuated, and two DP-enabled rigs have not returned to station, according to BSEE data. One of those rigs - the Noble Globetrotter II - sustained hull damage and flooding in the storm, and its operator has declared force majeure. The vessel has diverted to Pascagoula, Mississippi for repairs. 

The process of repairing, resupplying and re-manning U.S. GoM offshore facilities has been slowed by the damage and disruption at Port Fourchon, the industry's most important supply hub. The port reopened to navigation on Friday, but many of its facilities were damaged by the storm. Port tenants have had full access to return since Saturday, and as of Tuesday, some of the larger operations at the port have resumed business.