Hurricane Ike appears to have destroyed a number of production platforms and damaged some of the pipelines in the Gulf of Mexico, federal officials said Sunday.
Fly-overs revealed that at least 10 production platforms were destroyed by the storm, said Lars Herbst, regional director for the U.S. Minerals Management Service.
“It’s too early to say if it’s close to Katrina- and Rita-type damage,” Herbst said.
There are about 3,800 production platforms in the Gulf, including 717 with full-time staffs aboard.
The MMS says Hurricane Katrina destroyed 44 platforms three years ago, and soon after Hurricane Rita destroyed 64.
Herbst stressed the assessments were preliminary, but the damage appeared far worse than that caused by Hurricane Gustav two weeks ago.
Specifics about the size and production capacity of the destroyed platforms were not immediately available.
In additional to pummeling platforms, Katrina and Rita also damaged about 150 pipelines that gather and transport oil and natural gas from offshore wells.
Herbst said the aerial inspections showed Ike damaged several large pipelines, but the extent of the damage was not known.
Since just before Gustav’s arrival two weeks ago, nearly 100 percent of Gulf Coast crude production has stopped, or about 1.3 million barrels per day. About 98 percent of all natural gas production is on hold.
There was limited production between storms, but that ended as Ike approached.
Word that Ike did more damage than Gustav left open the question about how high gas prices would go, and how long they would remain there.
A gallon of regular gas soared past $5 per gallon in some areas, notably in regions that rely directly on a link to the mass of Gulf refineries that usually produce millions of gallons of gasoline each day.
More than half of Texas’ refineries have been shut down by Ike, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.