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EIA Sees Less Hurricane Shut-Ins in Gulf This Year

Based on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) projection for a "near-normal" hurricane season this year, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) said it expects shut-ins of oil and natural gas volumes in the Gulf of Mexico (GOM) to be significantly less than they were last year.

The EIA said it anticipates that a cumulative total of about 4.5 million bbl of crude oil and 36 Bcf of natural gas production in the federally administered GOM to be shut in as a result of disruptions during the current hurricane season, which runs through November. "However, given the uncertainty surrounding NOAA's climate predictions, the actual level of shut-in production will likely deviate from these expectations, depending on the number and severity of storms that threaten the producing region during," the agency said.

The EIA sees only a 3-4% probability that offshore crude oil or natural gas production will experience outages as or larger than last season when Hurricanes Gustave and Ike struck the Gulf Coast, causing shut-in production of more than 60 million bbl of crude oil or 335 Bcf of natural gas.

Ike and Gustav last year destroyed 60 platforms in the GOM; two mobile rigs were set adrift. In 2005, more than 100 oil and gas platforms were downed and 19 mobile drilling rigs were set adrift in the GOM by the devastating hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

The EIA said that its projections are based on the results of a Monte Carlo hurricane outage simulation using NOAA's most recent predictions for the level of hurricane activity. NOAA has projected that nine to 14 named storms will form within the Atlantic Basin over the next six months, including four to seven hurricanes, of which one to three will be intense (see Daily GPI, May 22).

Earlier this month Colorado State University (CSU) forecasters cut their 2009 Atlantic hurricane forecast for the second time, saying they now foresee slightly below-average tropical storm activity and slightly below-average probability of a major hurricane hitting the United States (see Daily GPI, June 3). The CSU team now estimates that the Atlantic hurricane season, which runs through Nov. 30, will produce 11 named storms, including five hurricanes, two of them intense.

In its initial outlook for the 2009 Atlantic hurricane season, NOAA's National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center (CPC) called for a 50% probability of a near-normal season. There's a quarter chance the upcoming season will be above- or below-normal, the CPC said.

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