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Lloyds List: Anti-hurricane upgrades in Gulf sail close to the wind

Martyn Wingrove,
Published: Jun 05, 2007

US MINERALS Management Service and offshore companies are still implementing changes to procedures and upgrading rigs in the US Gulf of Mexico as the latest hurricane season begins.

The government organisation that oversees offshore oil and gas operations has been successful in ordering five improvements to standards and procedures in the US Gulf, but oil companies and contractors are having trouble accommodating two more.

As part of the Department of the Interior, MMS has been working with the Department of Energy, the US Coast Guard and American Petroleum Institute to formulate and instigate upgrades to offshore practice ahead of this year’s hurricane season.

The MMS is trying to get contractors and oil companies to undertake the final two changes that concern rig and floating production unit mooring systems and tying down offshore facilities prior to hurricanes.

Two years ago, the Gulf of Mexico offshore and onshore infrastructure was smashed by hurricanes Rita and Katrina, which knocked out three quarters of the region’s production levels.

‘Hurricane season is a serious threat that those along the Atlantic coast and the Gulf of Mexico know all too well,’ said MMS deputy director Walter Cruickshank. ‘So we have been increasing our efforts to research weather-related scenarios, increase awareness of offshore operators, and improve design standards and best practices that will help to withstand these catastrophic forces.’

The MMS has called on owners of mobile drilling rigs to upgrade mooring systems up to a minimum of 12 lines, which has led to an increase in activity in US Gulf yards, but not all of the contractors have been able to achieve this.

‘The MMS suggested drilling contractors increase the number of mooring lines and required the installation of high strength anchors. In most cases the required number of mooring lines increased 50% to 12 and in some cases 100% to 16,’ said Mr Cruickshank.

Drilling contractors said they thought this only concerned rigs operating in deepwaters of the Gulf of Mexico and another said it takes 90 days in a yard to add new moorings to a rig.

The MMS is also waiting on the industry to implement the seventh guidance that improves tie-down procedures to secure equipment on offshore facilities in order to minimise damage during hurricanes, said a MMS spokeswoman.

The world’s largest drilling contractor Transocean has 10 mobile rigs working in the Gulf of Mexico. Six are dynamically positioned so will they can move away from the well sites during hurricanes, but the other four use mooring lines.

Noble Drilling, which has five semi-submersibles and three submersible rigs working in the region, is still implementing its upgrades.

Its semi-submersible Jim Thompson has just been upgraded and the Clyde Bordeaux is due out of the yard this month with its upgraded systems to begin a two-year contract with Shell, said a spokesman.

The Paul Romano rig is due in the yard for its 90 days upgrade this month but the Amos Runner is not expected in a yard until the fourth quarter.

 

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