Industry is Hurricane Ready

09 01, 2015 by Lori LeBlanc | BIC Magazine

Ten years ago, southeast Louisiana was beginning to recover from a hurricane named Katrina that scattered families, devastated neighborhoods and left an indelible mark by which all future natural disasters would be compared. For residents of southwest Louisiana, Hurricane Rita would leave its mark just a few weeks later. The citizens of Louisiana, particularly our coastal com-munities, did not let Katrina and Rita keep them down for long, though. In fact, within weeks we saw neighbor helping neighbor clean out and rebuild where they could.

Louisiana has emerged over the past decade much stronger and more prepared to battle Mother Nature than ever before with smarter home construction, stronger levee systems, accelerated coastal restoration projects and improved emergency preparedness systems that will help protect us all when and if the next storm heads our way. As we mark the 10-year anniversary of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, Louisiana Mid-Continent Oil and Gas Association (LMOGA) salutes the people of our great state for their courage and dedication to rebuilding and reinvigorating our coastal communities.

Louisiana’s offshore energy industry has grown and strengthened since 2005 as well and so has the industry’s commitment to safety, emergency preparedness, and community investment before and after a storm. The industry is clearly focused on protecting its employees, contractors, facilities and the environment from the impacts of hurricanes. During the busy 2005 Atlantic hurricane season, there were no injuries or loss of life on offshore energy facilities in the Gulf, and that’s a statistic that industry is intent on repeating each hurricane season.

Building upon lessons learned from past storms like Katrina, energy companies are continuously improving preparation and response plans to lessen storm impacts and shorten the time it takes to recover. Companies take great care developing detailed hurricane response plans long before hurricane season begins on June 1. And plans are constantly updated and improved year-round, not just when a storm is at our doorstep. Regular planning meetings are held with government officials at all levels before and after hurricane season.

Gulf of Mexico exploration and production facilities are one of the first industrial sectors to react in a potential storm event, and industry’s precautions are intense.

Prior to a storm’s arrival, offshore facilities are secured and all personnel are evacuated in stages. Since evacuation of offshore facilities can only be accomplished by boat or helicopter, all nonessential personnel who are not required to shut down rigs and platforms are removed first when a storm threatens the Gulf of Mexico. Drilling rigs cease operation and all rig personnel are evacuated. Rigs and drillships that can be moved are relocated out of the storm’s path.

Fixed production facilities are then evacuated. Oil and gas production is ceased, sometimes remotely by computer control from onshore facilities. Producing wells are “shut-in” by valves required by the government that are located deep below the sea floor. These “subsurface safety valves” are designed to prevent pollution if the hurricane damages the producing rig.

Here at home, LMOGA assists in coordinating communication between member companies and the appropriate local, state and federal emergency managers throughout a storm. The association also provides support to our members after the storm, as they return to offshore facilities and safely start producing energy again to fuel recovery efforts.

Hurricanes present a challenge to all of us, but preparedness and focus on safety can make that challenge a little easier to overcome. We can’t prevent the next Hurricane Katrina but we can be prepared for it. Louisiana’s offshore industry is pre-pared and we encourage you and your family to take the necessary steps to stay safe this hurricane season.