In the immediate aftermath of disasters like hurricane Isaac, our thoughts focus on the victims and the tremendous damage to homes and infrastructure alike. As a category 1 hurricane Isaac has not so far shown the destructive force that its infamous predecessor, Katrina did in 2005. In particular energy infrastructure has been shut in by Isaac as a precaution but appears not to have suffered lasting damage. The Gulf of Mexico remains an important center for US crude oil and natural gas production. Today we compare the production shut ins caused by Katrina and Isaac and their impact on the national picture.
The information we are using to compare the impact of Katrina and Isaac on Gulf of Mexico (GOM) oil and gas infrastructure is provided by the newly minted (October 2011) Federal Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) - part of what was the Mineral Management Service. The BSEE provides daily updates on tropical storms and hurricanes such as Isaac at their website here. We also extracted archive reports from the Energy Information Administration for the Katrina data. Further information about damage to energy infrastructure can also be tracked via special reports from the Department of Energy (DOE) Infrastructure Security and Energy Restoration (ISER) division. ISER provides emergency situation reports and gives details of energy infrastructure closed including lists of refineries, natural gas processing plants and pipelines impacted by the storm at their website here.
The BSEE daily hurricane impact reports summarize the shut in of GOM production platforms and facilities. BSEE provide production shut in estimates for oil and natural gas as well as percentages of the estimated “normal” GOM production that are shut in as a result of the hurricane. The production percentages are calculated using information submitted by offshore operators in daily reports. Shut-in production information included in these reports is based on the amount of oil and gas the operator expected to produce that day so bear in mind that they are estimates.
The table below represents the impact of hurricanes Katrina and Isaac on GOM natural gas production. Katrina hit the Coast of Louisiana almost exactly 7 years before Isaac, on August 25, 2005. Isaac made landfall on August 28, 2012. Column 3 of the table shows the amount of natural gas (Bcf/d) that was shut in by Katrina – 8.3 Bcf/d in 2005. At the time 8.3 Bcf/d represented 79 percent of the 10.4 Bcf/d GOM natural gas production. Back in 2005, before shale gas had made any material impact on US production, that 10.4 Bcf/d GOM production represented 19.5 percent of the 54 Bcf/d US total gas production.