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Shell Delays Mars Platform Work Until July, Auger Scheduled for June

Shell said last week that it will further delay work to repair flexjoints on its Mars tension leg platform (TLP) in Mississippi Canyon Block 807 due to ongoing loop currents in the Mars Basin area of the Gulf of Mexico. The company intends to first complete flexjoint repairs at the Auger TLP in Garden Banks 426.

Shell said repairs on Auger are expected to begin on June 1 and take about two weeks. About 40% of the current production will be offline for part of the repair period, and during the remainder of the repair the platform will be completely shut in. Auger currently is producing 85,000 b/d of oil and 195 MMcf/d of gas.

Mars currently produces 140,000 b/d of oil and 156 MMcf/d of gas. Shell said it will continue to monitor the loop currents at Mars and expects to complete the Mars repairs in the first half of July. The Mars flexjoint repairs also will take about two weeks.

Loop currents form when a portion of the Gulf Stream enters the Gulf of Mexico through the Yucatan Straits, flow north and then turn east and south to exit the Florida Straits forming a "loop." The loop current is a permanent oceanographic feature in the Gulf of Mexico and at certain times of the year can extend north far enough to impact deepwater lease blocks in the central Gulf of Mexico. The currents make it difficult to send divers down to conduct repair work.

Mars was initially shut in last May when Shell discovered damage to the oil pipeline flexjoint. Subsequent inspections of the gas line also showed signs of deterioration on its flexjoint and a decision was made to make temporary repairs to both lines while the flexjoints were refurbished. Production resumed at Mars last June and the company delayed permanent repair work until spring to avoid disrupting supply after the impact of Hurricane Ivan (see NGI, March 14; Nov. 8, 2004; July 5, 2004; May 31, 2004).

Inspections last summer of the remaining oil and gas export flexjoints, as well as all flowline flexjoints, on Shell's TLPs revealed no deterioration, the company said.

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