Analysis: Looming Disaster in the Gulf

Thursday, August 31, 2006
Even as Ernesto was downgraded into a tropical depression, U.S. energy security may still be at risk in the Gulf of Mexico, UPI reported. At stake this hurricane season is another round of devastating storms, which could further hinder crude oil and natural gas production off the Gulf of Mexico. The deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico bring in nearly 1.5 million barrels of oil a day, or 25 to 30 percent of the nation's overall production, and 10 billion cubic feet of gas, according to the Department of Energy's Mineral Management Service. As of late June, offshore oil production was down 12 percent from last year and gas extraction was running 9 percent below normal levels. According to energy analysts, even a year after hurricanes Katrina and Rita hit, oil production and infrastructure remain "vulnerable" with both areas not yet fully recovered from the impact of the two Category 3 storms. The two storms offshore destruction damaged 22,000 of the 33,000 miles of pipelines and 3,050 of the 4,000 platforms in the Gulf. Even with no loss of life or significant oil spills from wells on the Outer Continental Shelf, the two Category 3 storms destroyed 115 platforms and damaged 52 others. The seven record storms that hit the Gulf last summer accounted for cumulative shut-in of oil volumes totaling about 173 million barrels, or 31.6 percent of annual oil production in the Gulf. Natural gas also shut-in 833 billion cubic feet, or 22.8 percent of gas production. (Source: UPI)

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