International Study Group - Major Issues in Platform and Facility Recovery: The People Factor
Since the major hurricane series in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s (Hurricanes Audrey, Carla, Celia, Camille and others), through the pre-2005 hurricane season, the Gulf of Mexico oil industry (offshore production, shipping and receiving facilities, as well as onshore refining, production and distribution systems) has continually updated, upgraded and improved hurricane preparedness and response programs. Procedures for pre-planning shut-in and evacuation of offshore facilities and shut-down of refineries and pipelines have been standardized throughout the industry and have been fine tuned to the point of being considered standard operating procedures. One of the biggest and relatively untested gaps in the evolution of these procedures has been the assumption that people would be available, infrastructure would be intact and response organizations would be ready and able to respond once the storm passed. While hurricanes of category 5 strength have always been a potential, they have been fairly rare and the odds of a direct hit by such a storm has been traditionally considered remote. In fact, many offshore facilities are designed to withstand only a category 3 storm (the current Minerals Management Service requirements). One other issue to consider is the fact that during the major hurricane series of the late 1950’s and early 1960’s, the offshore oil industry in the Gulf of Mexico was in it’s infancy with only a few hundred platforms in operation in the shallower area of the Gulf. During the 2005 season, there were over 4000 platforms in operation in the Gulf, with many in very deep water.
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