Shut-ins continued at most offshore natural gas and oil production platforms in the Gulf of Mexico (GOM) Wednesday, but initial assessments by onshore and offshore operators pointed to minimal damage from Hurricane Gustav. The biggest problem onshore appeared to be a lack of electricity at refineries and gas processing plants.

Based on reports from 72 companies submitted to the Minerals Management Service (MMS) as of 11:30 a.m. CDT Wednesday, 91.6% of the natural gas production in the GOM remains shut in, down from more than 95% on Tuesday. Estimated recent GOM natural gas production is 7.4 Bcf/d. MMS also reported that 95.8% of the oil production in the GOM remained shut in, down from 100% Tuesday. Estimated recent oil production from the GOM is 1.3 million b/d. Personnel remained evacuated from a total of 599 production platforms, equivalent to 83.5% of the 717 manned platforms. Personnel from 91 rigs also remained evacuated; this is equivalent to 75.2% of the 121 rigs currently operating in the GOM.

The Department of Energy’s Energy Information Administration (EIA) said that as of Wednesday morning, there were no reports of damage to pipeline or production infrastructure. A force majeure on the Sabine Pipe Line system, which operates the Henry Hub, had been lifted for some interconnects Wednesday but not for others.

Flows were allowed to resume around 9 p.m. CDT Tuesday at nearly all of Henry Hub’s pipeline interconnects, including the Trunkline/Henry Hub (TRK) point. However, a force majeure remained in effect for Trunkline/Henry Hub High Pressure (TRKH).

“Many natural gas pipelines are in the process of accessing the conditions of their systems and are in communications with the downstream gas processing plants where relevant,” EIA stated. “In addition, many of the Gulf Coast area compressor stations along these pipelines are operating on emergency backup generators as commercial electric power is unavailable.” EIA estimated that 25 of the 31 natural gas processing plants, which process 16.1 Bcf/d, were shut in ahead of Gustav.

ExxonMobil Corp., BP plc, Shell Oil Co., Chevron Corp. and ConocoPhillips reported no visual evidence of damage to their offshore oil and gas platforms following fly-overs of their facilities. Most operators were beginning to send in crews to begin detailed inspections.

“We are returning operations crews to those facilities that were not in the direct path of the storm,” ExxonMobil stated. “We are also moving post-storm assessment teams to those remaining facilities which were in the immediate path of the storm.” ExxonMobil noted that about 37,000 b/d of its liquids production and 600 MMcf/d of its natural gas production remained shut in Wednesday.

“The good news is this storm was not as powerful as [hurricanes] Rita or Katrina,” said Chevron spokesman Mickey Driver. However, he cautioned that Chevron would “have to do inspections to make sure everything is OK.”

Anadarko Petroleum Corp. continued to return 600 employees to its operated facilities that were both inside and outside the path of Gustav. The Houston-based independent Tuesday restarted production from its Nansen and Boomvang platforms, which were not in Gustav’s path, and “we expect our other facilities that were not in the path of the storm to be ready to restart production as pipelines and infrastructure allow,” spokesman John Christiansen said.

Anadarko, which was producing more than 150,000 boe/d net pre-Gustav, was sending personnel Wednesday to make additional assessments on Constitution, Independence Hub, Marco Polo and Neptune — all in Gustav’s path. “These four facilities remain shut in pending further inspection,” said Christiansen.

Enterprise Products Partners LP said initial inspections by onsite field crews indicated “minimal or no visible damage” to its gas processing, fractionation and gas and liquids pipeline assets in Louisiana. Enterprise planned to conduct “aerial evaluations” of its offshore platforms and onshore pipes and facilities later Wednesday. Enterprise said its 438-mile Acadian natural gas pipeline system returned to normal operations. In addition, a fly-over of the Dixie Pipeline system Tuesday showed no visible damage to the pump stations or pipelines.

However, Dixie remains out of service from Mont Belvieu, TX, to the Baker, LA, station because of a loss of power, but operations were normal eastward from Petal, MS, to Apex, NC, where the system terminates.

“The loss of commercial power represents the most significant challenge facing Enterprise, but once restored, the partnership expects processing, fractionation and pipeline facilities to quickly resume operations,” it stated. “Enterprise continues to work closely with local electricity providers but does not have an estimate as to when power will resume at the impacted locations.” Enterprise operates or owns an interest in nine natural gas processing facilities in Louisiana, with net capacity of nearly 3 Bcf/d. Enterprise also has four Louisiana fractionators representing net capacity of 179,000 b/d.

Based on reports, oil services provider Hornbeck Offshore Services Inc. said it suffered no damage to any of its vessels, including those currently under construction in GOM shipyards. “The company’s new generation offshore supply vessel fleet continues to operate at pre-storm levels of 100% utilization” and it “remains in position to assist its GOM customers as they begin to assess storm damage and commence their recovery and repair efforts.”

In related news, Dallas-based Atmos Energy, with more than 350,000 customers in Louisiana, had crews “out in force” to determine the extent of damage to its gas facilities and to make repairs. Most of Atmos’ facilities are underground, but some were damaged by uprooted trees. Atmos crews have responded to several emergency calls, mostly in the coastal parishes along and south of the Interstate 10 corridor, it stated.

“Fortunately, damage from Hurricane Gustav and the remaining storm appears to be less than damage from hurricanes Katrina and Rita,” said Atmos.

MMS operations in Louisiana also were not immune to Gustav, and offices in New Orleans, Houma, Lafayette and Lake Charles were to remain closed through Friday. Only minor building damages had been reported by the agency’s assessment teams in New Orleans. “However, the infrastructure (i.e., electricity, water, sewage, etc.) in Jefferson Parish is not available to support our buildings.” MMS said it would keep its employees informed through its website and through the media.

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