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Offshore oil platforms prepare for the unpredictable

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Preparing for the unpredictable

Katrina showed uneven damages, some that spoke to structures' faults

By KRISTEN HAYS Copyright Houston Chronicle

Aug. 28, 2008, 10:25PM

When Hurricane Katrina roared through the Gulf of Mexico three years ago, it ripped the drilling rig atop Royal Dutch Shell's Mars platform from its clamps and slammed it back onto the top deck in a crumpled pile of steel.

But as 80-foot waves and 175-mph winds hammered the Mars platform, Shell's Ursa platform, just 7 1/2 miles to the east, emerged unscathed.

A storm doesn't necessarily wreak havoc on all installations it touches, said Peter Marshall, a retired Shell engineer and consultant, as Gulf operators continued preparations Thursday for Gustav's expected move into the energy-prolific basin.

Some structures may get the brunt while others don't, or a storm may expose an unanticipated weakness.

In the case of the two Shell structures, the platforms themselves withstood the storm, Marshall said. The damage at Mars stemmed from clamps and bolts that failed to hold its drilling rig to beams. The repaired rig now has stronger clamps.

"After an accident like that, people are a lot more cautious," Marshall said from the University of Singapore, where he teaches courses on offshore structures four times a year.

"That particular accident is very unlikely to happen again — either because of improvements or the fact that substandard platforms aren't here anymore," he said.

Hurricanes Katrina and Rita destroyed more than 100 platforms and shut in 92 percent of oil output and 83 percent of natural gas production. A shut-in involves closing safety valves below the water's surface to prevent oil and gas releases.

Gulf operators eyed Gustav closely Thursday as they ramped up evacuations of workers nonessential to production. Production was largely unaffected, but some companies said they expect substantial shut-ins through the weekend in anticipation of the storm.

Anadarko Petroleum Corp., which operates eight installations, said the company anticipates fully evacuating and shutting in all its production and drilling facilities by Sunday.

Shell, a major Gulf operator with multiple installations including Mars and Ursa that could be in the storm's path, said it has started shut-in procedures and aims to fully evacuate facilities by Saturday.

ConocoPhillips was a step ahead, but not because of the storm. The company shut in production at its Magnolia platform on Monday for routine maintenance, spokesman Rich Johnson said. The company anticipates evacuating all personnel by Saturday if Gustav remains on its current projected track toward the Louisiana coastline. It's still early, though, and the storm could strike anywhere from Texas to the Florida Panhandle.

Even though forecasters expect Gustav to strengthen once it hits the Gulf, oil and gas prices that had spiked moderately reversed course Thursday.

Crude for October delivery fell $2.56, or 2.2 percent, to $115.59 a barrel, while natural gas for October delivery dropped 55.8 cents, 6.5 percent, to $8.05 per million British thermal units, both on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

The plunge in natural gas futures came after the federal government announced that gas inventories rose by 102 billion cubic feet, about 20 billion cubic feet more than analysts expected.

Addison Armstrong, director of market research for Tradition Energy in Stamford, Conn., said Thursday's announced boost in inventories likely deflated initial Gustav-related buying that pushed up prices.

"I think this is overdone, because you're going to have shut-ins at the very least. And then we'll talk about what kind of damage we have," he said.

Houston-based Weather Insight upped its projections of production susceptible to Gustav-related shut-ins Thursday, saying virtually all oil and natural gas output could face short-term interruptions.

http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/business/5972848.html


"Credibility in immigration policy can be summed up in one sentence: Those who should get in, get in; those who should be kept out, are kept out; and those who should not be here will be required to leave."

"...for the system to be credible, people actually have to be deported at the end of the process."

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Testimony to the House Immigration Subcommittee, February 24, 1995

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I'm keeping an eye on Gustav, as I have family there still.

It appears that overall, Jindal is handling this situation far better than Blanco handled Katrina. I don't know what this will mean for the offshore platforms (my niece's husband works on one, but he's home this week) but with any luck, the storm will lessen in intensity before it leaves Cuba.


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I'm keeping an eye on Gustav, as I have family there still.

It appears that overall, Jindal is handling this situation far better than Blanco handled Katrina. I don't know what this will mean for the offshore platforms (my niece's husband works on one, but he's home this week) but with any luck, the storm will lessen in intensity before it leaves Cuba.

The production personel are always the last to leave production platforms. The companies always want to keep product flowing until the last minute before having to shut in production and evacuate. Contractors and non-essential personel have most likely already been evacuated. I haven't checked to see if the other shift at the production facility I work at have evacuated. Hurricane Gustav is still far enough away. There is still some time, but if I was on duty I would already be b*tching to my supervisor to get us out well in advance of the feeder bands of rain. At some point the helicopters will no longer venture out into the Gulf to evacuate you. The weather closes in and you are stuck. Been there and done that. I've had to ride out several minimal hurricanes and tropical storms in my 25+ years of working on the Gulf. It was not fun. I would not want to experience a catagory 2, 3, 4, or 5 storm at sea. Both hurricanes Katrina and Rita toppled platforms into the sea. Fortunately the platforms were empty of personnel.


"Credibility in immigration policy can be summed up in one sentence: Those who should get in, get in; those who should be kept out, are kept out; and those who should not be here will be required to leave."

"...for the system to be credible, people actually have to be deported at the end of the process."

US Congresswoman Barbara Jordan (D-TX)

Testimony to the House Immigration Subcommittee, February 24, 1995

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