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No major damage to underwater oil pipelines

Unlike last year’s Hurricane Ivan, Katrina did not cause major damage to underwater pipelines in the Gulf of Mexico, the head of the U.S. Minerals Management Service said on Friday.
/ Source: Reuters

Unlike last year’s Hurricane Ivan, Katrina did not cause major damage to underwater pipelines in the Gulf of Mexico, the head of the U.S. Minerals Management Service said on Friday.

“There hasn’t been major damage to pipelines under water,” MMS Director Johnnie Burton told reporters at a briefing on damage to offshore oil and natural gas production. Last year, Ivan triggered powerful underwater mudslides that wrecked and buried pipelines, shutting in 45 million barrels of oil over a six-month period.

Since oil companies started evacuating platforms a few days before Katrina hit the Gulf, 21.38 million barrels of crude have been shut in.

Burton said Katrina, which blasted through the Gulf of Mexico before hitting Louisiana on Aug. 29, destroyed 46 “mostly low producing” energy platforms and extensively damaged 20 others.

Burton’s comments echoed those of Interior Secretary Gale Norton, who said on Tuesday that Katrina caused the greatest damage to onshore natural gas processing plants, rather than underwater pipelines.

“Preliminary reports suggest that Katrina did not cause the same extensive mudslide damage to pipelines as Ivan, but this is still preliminary and subject to information which is changing continually,” she said.

The Minerals Management Service, an agency within the Interior Department, is responsible for offshore oil and gas leasing.

Four drilling rigs in the Gulf of Mexico were destroyed by Katrina. Nine others had “extensive” damage, Burton said.

Another six drilling rigs are adrift but have been remanned and are now being repowered, she said.

An estimated 35 percent of the crude oil now shut in by Katrina damage “can’t go anywhere,” Burton said, referring to pipelines and onshore refineries.

Shell Oil’s giant Mars production platform was also badly damaged, and “it will take a while to fix it,” she said. Last week, Shell said that the Mars platform was unlikely to return to service until 2006.

The Gulf of Mexico is home to about one-quarter of U.S. oil and gas production.