Shell: Ready for 2009 Hurricane Season

Shell Oil appears to be the only one competing in a contest among the major oil companies for the most reminders of how well prepared it is for the 2009 Atlantic Hurricane Season.
Last month, the U.S. arm of Europe’s Royal Dutch Shell said it would be dispensing hurricane updates via Twitter. It has also established a Hurricane center online and has already issued status reports on brewing tropical storms offshore.
On Monday, the official kickoff to the 2009 hurricane season, the company was at it again, hosting a confernence call with the media about its hurricane preparedness.
“We feel like we’re as ready as we’re going to be, ready as we need to be,” said Frank Glaviano, Shell’s vice president of production for the Americas region with Shell Exploration and Production.
Offshore, the company is using additional mooring lines to keep floating drilling rigs in place during a storm, raising shallow-water jackup rigs higher out of the water — out of the path of violent waves — and doing more to secure production platforms, he said.
Those moves are consistent with steps the entire offshore industry has taken in the wake of destructive storm seasons in recent years.
In addition, Shell has lined up additional helicopters to evacuate offshore workers, since it has more employees and contractors on rigs and platforms this year than it did in 2008, Glaviano said. The company also has more experience now than it did in the past with deepsea pipeline repairs, which may be necessary if a storm damages crucial oil and gas transportation arteries, he said.
Onshore, the company has also bulked up its storm response measures, said Tom Smith, president of Shell Oil Products U.S.
Among them: Shell has established a voluntary program with fuel wholesalers that encourages them keep underground tanks full of gasoline and other fuels ahead of storms; it has lined up more generators to restore power to fueling stations blacked out by a hurricane; and it has coordinated with government officials to ensure fuel stations along evacuation routes are well supplied, he said.
Each Shell and Motiva refinery are also equipped with their own hurricane plans, he said.
The primary goal is to keep workers safe and to try as best as possible to keep critical fuel infrastructure up and running, since Gulf Coast refineries supply roughly half the nation’s gasoline, Smith said.
“We learn from each prior experience, and we do what we can to minimize that interruption,” he said.
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration forecasters are predicting a “near normal” 2009 Atlantic hurricane season, which runs June 1 to Nov. 1. They say there is a 70 percent chance of having nine to 14 named storms, of which four to seven could become hurricanes, including one to three major hurricanes.
The Gulf of Mexico accounts for about 25 percent of domestic oil production and 15 percent of natural gas output through about 3,800 offshore production platforms, according to the Minerals Management Service.
Last summer, Ike and Gustav destroyed 60 oil and gas production platforms, down from more than 100 with Katrina and Rita. Just two mobile drilling rigs were set adrift, compared with 19 in 2005, the office said, attributing the improvement to bulked-up prevention measures taken since 2005.