Information about how much damage Hurricane Rita inflicted on Gulf Coast onshore and offshore infrastructure continued to be somewhat of a mystery on Wednesday, with some producers continuing to assess their operations, while others began to restaff platforms. The Henry Hub natural gas delivery point operated by Sabine Pipe Line LLC remained under force majeure for the seventh day in a row because of power outages and flooding. And Chevron Corp. reported its deepwater Typhoon platform was turned upside down in the storm.

In any case, there was no offshore oil production on Wednesday, and natural gas output numbers actually fell from a day earlier.

The Minerals Management Service (MMS) reported on Wednesday shut-in gas production in the wake of Hurricanes Rita and Katrina now stands at 8.027 Bcf/d, or 80% of total offshore Gulf supply — up from Tuesday’s report of 7.856 Bcf/d. Cumulative shut-in gas production since Aug. 26 is now 180.56 Bcf, or 4.947% of the annual offshore output.

Meanwhile, Golden, CO-based consulting firm Bentek Energy reported total onshore and offshore Gulf production shut-ins of 9,036 MMcf/d based on scheduled gas pipeline nominations as of Wednesday morning. Bentek said Gulf production rose Wednesday to 4,785 MMcf/d, compared with a revised total for Tuesday of 4,529 MMcf/d and pre-Katrina levels of 13,820 MMcf/d (see related story).

There was no immediate explanation from MMS on why its shut-in numbers increased on Wednesday. However, the agency apparently was able to garner information from one more producer compared to its survey a day earlier, which may have contributed to the increase.

MMS said shut-in oil production remained at 100% Wednesday, mirroring the past two days, at 1.512 bbl/d. Cumulative oil shut ins since before Katrina are now 37.88 million bbl — 6.919% of the annual oil production offshore.

With 76 producers reporting, MMS also noted 72.4% of the 819 manned platforms and 47.76% of the 134 mobile rigs operating in the Gulf remain evacuated. On Tuesday, when 75 producers issued reports, about 83% of the manned platforms and 65% of the rigs were still evacuated.

Sabine Pipe Line’s Henry Hub delivery point first declared a force majeure last Thursday in anticipation of Rita’s arrival, and there was no indication when it would be lifted. On its website, Sabine said, “Force majeure continues in effect at all points on the Sabine system. Subsequent to preliminary visual assessments, Sabine is briefing personnel and securing necessary resources to facilitate additional reconnaissance. Power remains out in most areas of the system. Efforts are under way to remove standing water from Sabine’s Henry facilities so that the condition of equipment can be further assessed.” Sabine’s Houston offices reopened for “most” business functions on Tuesday.

Sabine’s news followed a report by Nymex on Tuesday, which extended its prior declaration of force majeure on remaining September natural gas deliveries because of the outage at the Henry Hub and declared force majeure for the October contract, which expired Wednesday (see Daily GPI, Sept. 28).

Also onshore, at Lake Charles, LA, Trunkline LNG’s terminal is operational with back-up generator power and is fully manned, the company said. The company is waiting on the U.S. Coast Guard to complete checking out the Calcasieu ship channel, according to Waterborne LNG Reports. A barge reportedly is missing in the ship channel and the Coast Guard has to make sure it isn’t blocking entry. Deliveries to the terminal could resume as early as this weekend, but it depends on the channel inspection, Trunkline said.

El Paso Corp. reported no additional damage from Rita upstream of its Toca Compressor Station, and its Southern Natural Gas Pipeline (SNGP) may resume flows by mid-October. Repairs to receipt points to the east may not be completed until the end of November, it said.

SNGP’s system upstream of Toca, south of New Orleans, declared a force majeure after Katrina, and the integrity of the facilities is still being verified. The return of gas production is subject to repairs to liquids handling/processing facilities and other equipment at the Toca station being completed as planned, SNGP said. A key factor is the availability of gas processing because of the limited amount of unprocessed gas that can be blended into the pipeline system, it said in a statement.

SNGP receipt points most likely to flow gas initially are located on lines that enter its mainlines between Olga and Toca. Receipt points east of the Olga compressor station were impacted by major structural damage sustained at Main Pass 298 junction platform, and “temporary and permanent” repair plans to address that damage are being developed, the pipeline said. SNGP expects receipt points between Olga and the Main Pass 298 junction platform to resume flow by the end of October. Points east of the Main Pass 298 platform should resume flow by the end of November, the company said. Definitive dates for return to service will depend on availability of materials and equipment, weather conditions and the workload of marine and other contractors, the pipeline said Wednesday.

Producers overall are reporting minimal damage to their offshore facilities, with some exceptions. Chevron Corp., which earlier in the day reported its third quarter profits would be lower than expected because of storm damage — before Rita — confirmed Wednesday its massive Typhoon platform, which it jointly owns with BHP Billiton, took a direct hit in the hurricane and was turned upside down in the storm. Chevron, the platform’s operator, is assessing damage, but it’s not sure whether the platform can be salvaged, according to spokesman Mickey Driver.

Typhoon, which was installed in 2001, was tethered to the seabed in 2,100 feet of water, according to Chevron, but during Rita, it was apparently ripped from its moorings and pushed 70 miles to the northwest near the Eugene Island region of the Gulf. The field where Typhoon was drilling only had a commercial life of five to eight years, and was “way on the downside,” Driver said. Typhoon was built to produce 40,000 bbl/d of oil and 60 MMcf/d, but it was producing less than half that amount, Driver said.

Meanwhile, BP plc reported Wednesday it has restaffed most of its deepwater platforms, and said it expects gas production will begin at the NaKika and Marlin facilities “within the next few days.” The other platforms are “awaiting export facilities repairs from Hurricane Katrina-related damage,” the company said on its website. Offshore crews continue to assess damage, “which appears to be minimal,” BP said.

ConocoPhillips’ assessment teams found their largest offshore asset, Magnolia, “has minimal damage and production is expected to resume shortly, contingent on resumption of operations at related onshore infrastructure such as pipelines and utilities. Initial assessments at three smaller fields have identified damage, but the production impact is not expected to be significant.” Physical inspections at onshore fields in the path of the storm indicate little or no damage, the company said. Operations are expected to resume once water and power are restored. Operations at its South Texas gas fields not in the path of the storm were curtailed as gas processing facilities were shut down. These fields were restarting as the gas processing facilities reopen.

Overflights of key pipeline systems by ExxonMobil Corp. found “minimal damage,” and the oil major was beginning to restaff offshore platforms on Wednesday. “Early reports indicate that damage to most of our offshore facilities has been limited,” ExxonMobil said in a statement. “We have begun to restart several offshore and onshore facilities along the Gulf Coast.”

ExxonMobil’s current shut-in production due to hurricanes Rita and Katrina totals about 85,000 bbl/d of oil and 890 MMcf/d of gas. Incremental volumes shut in because of Rita total 50,000 bbl/d and 625 MMcf/d.

Dallas-based Pioneer Natural Resources Co. said its deepwater Canyon Express and Falcon Corridor gas production facilities have resumed operations. Net gas production from these facilities is expected to achieve pre-hurricane levels of approximately 60 MMcf/d and 150 MMcf/d, respectively, later this week.

However, Pioneer’s production from the deepwater Devils Tower field, which was averaging approximately 5,000 bbl/d and 5 MMcf/d prior to Hurricane Katrina, remains shut in. Damage to the spar was minimal and has been repaired, and there was no further damage from Rita, but production cannot resume until operations have been restored at Chevron’s Empire pipeline terminal, the company said.

Nexen Inc. said only two offshore platforms — Vermilion 321 and 340 — “sustained significant damage. The inspections indicated topside damage to these platforms and further assessments will be required to determine if there is structural damage.” Production from these platforms prior to the hurricane was approximately 3,900 boe/d. “Initial inspections of our remaining facilities on the shelf revealed only minor damage,” Nexen said

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