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Shell Resumes Mars Production, Full Flows Expected by End of June

Shell Exploration & Production Co. resumed partial production flows last week from its Mars Tension Leg Platform (TLP), the largest producing platform in the Gulf of Mexico. The platform was shut-in due to damage from Hurricane Katrina last August.

Mars is connected to the Mississippi Canyon pipeline, and it was producing 150-170 MMcf/d of natural gas and 150,000 bbl/d of oil prior to Katrina. The platform, which sustained extensive topside damage, has a production capacity of 220,000 bbl/d of oil and 220 MMcf/d of gas.

The TLP and wells survived Katrina, but the platform drilling rig and some major elements of the topsides production equipment were heavily damaged. "The Mars platform recovery and deepwater pipeline repairs were among the most technologically complex operations in the world, and our people were up to the task, completing the work safely and ahead of schedule," said Marvin Odum, head of Shell's North and South American E&P unit.

"Resumption of production as a result of a dedicated recovery team and on-site workforce that often numbered over 500 people per day and representing over 1,000,000 man-hours without a recordable incident is the crowning testament to the success of this effort."

In restoring the TLP and its pipelines, Shell had to lift the damaged, 1,000-ton platform rig in two pieces from an awkward toppled position on the platform deck. The damaged sections of the rig were transported to shore for repairs. The company also had to repair the platform's deepwater oil and gas export pipelines in 2,700 feet of water using underwater robotics to execute tasks normally performed by divers in shallow waters. The pipelines were damaged as a result of a drifting semi-submersible deepwater drilling rig that dragged an anchor across the lines during the storm.

Shell said production will continue to ramp up over the next several weeks and will be completely restored to pre-Katrina rates by the end of June. Shell operates the Mars platform with a 71.5% working interest; BP has the remaining working interest.

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