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Skeleton MMS Crew in Houston Assesses Shut-in Production, Damage Estimates

A skeleton crew of six Minerals Management Services (MMS) employees from the New Orleans regional office is operating out of the Interior Department's Minerals Royalty Management office in Houston, and is responsible for compiling the estimates on shut-in oil and natural gas production and damages to production platforms, pipelines and other structures in the hurricane-ravaged Gulf of Mexico.

The six-member team closed up shop in New Orleans last Saturday and moved to Houston, activating the agency's "Continuity of Operations Plan" (COOP) for Hurricane Katrina on Sunday. Prior to Katrina, the agency had a 500- to 600-member workforce in its New Orleans office, but many are on administrative leave, according to Jason Matthews, a petroleum engineer for MMS in the Gulf of Mexico.

He noted that MMS has been trying to track down most of its workers to determine how they fared amid the destruction and rising flood waters, and has been successful in many cases.

Matthews said MMS was planning to disperse employees to its various district offices in Houma, LaFayette and Lake Charles in Louisiana and Lake Jackson in Texas to deal with pipeline and platform issues, possibly as early as Wednesday (Aug. 31).

He estimated that there are 4,000 platforms and structures in the Gulf of Mexico, along with 38,000 miles of pipelines and 134 drilling rigs. "We probably won't see anything on damages for a while," Matthews said.

He did not know how long MMS would be relocated in Houston, but some reports indicate the mandatory evacuation for the city of New Orleans could be in effect for a month or more.

Energy companies reporting shut-in production or damaged facilities are advised to call the COOP team at (281) 987-6876 or (281) 987-6865, or fax the information to (281) 987-6885.

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