"The overall damage caused by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita has shown them to be the greatest natural disasters to oil and gas development in the history of the Gulf of Mexico," said MMS Regional Director Chris Oynes.

And the effects of the hurricanes, which wreaked havoc in the Gulf within a four-week period in August and September, are still with the industry. Daily production of about 1,804 cubic feet of gas and 396,000 barrels of oil remains shut in, according to the Minerals Management Service. "For a long-term projection, 255,000 bbl/d of oil and 400 MMcf/d of gas will probably not be restored to production prior to the start of the 2006 hurricane season," the MMS said in a hurricane impact assessment news release Thursday.

MMS estimates that 3,050 of the Gulf's 4,000 platforms and 22,000 of the 33,000 miles of Gulf pipelines were in the direct path of either Hurricane Katrina or Rita. "Just last year, in the devastating Hurricane Ivan, there were seven platforms destroyed, compared with the 115 platforms destroyed in Katrina and Rita," Oynes said.

Oynes told Daily GPI Jan. 12 that underwater damage assessment could take another 12 months to complete. "I think we've caught a lot of the major stuff, but it wouldn't surprise me if we find 10-12 other platforms that had underwater damage. Some of the diving hasn't even taken place yet. It's a major effort to do all that (see Daily GPI, Jan. 12)."

Hurricane Katrina, a Category 5 storm when it entered the Outer Continental Shelf, destroyed 46 platforms and damaged 20 others. To date, 100 damaged pipelines and 211 minor pollution incidents on the OCS have been reported to MMS. (Minor pollution incidents are those involving less than 500 bbl of oil that do not reach the cost line.) Included in the 100 damaged pipelines in federal waters were 36 large diameter (10 inches or greater) pipelines; 12 of these 36 have returned to service.

Hurricane Rita, a Category 4 storm when it entered the OCS, destroyed 69 platforms and damaged 32 others. To date, 83 damaged pipelines and 207 minor pollution incidents on the OCS have been reported. Included in the 83 damaged pipelines in federal waters were 28 large diameter pipelines, 10 of which have returned to service.

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