The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is predicting a rough season in the Atlantic this year, with 11 to 17 tropical storms, of which two to four are expected to turn into major hurricanes between June 1 and November 30. The Weather Company also expects an active season, updating its seasonal forecast earlier in May with an expectation of a total of 14 named storms – seven hurricanes and three major hurricanes.
The hurricane season is a reminder for all business sectors, including the oil and gas industry, to review their disaster plan and emergency response plans. Following are several measures that should be included in a disaster plan for drilling production operations to prepare for and return after a storm:
- Evacuate all non-essential personnel and begin the process of shutting down production days in advance of a tropical storm or hurricane moving toward or near the drilling and production operations.
- As the storm gets closer, evacuate all personnel from the drilling rigs and platforms, and shut down production. Drill ships may relocate to a safe location. Operations in areas not forecast to take a direct hit from the storm often should be shut down as well because storms can change direction with very little notice.
- Once the storm has passed and it is safe to fly, have operators initiate “flyovers” of onshore and offshore facilities to evaluate damage from the air. For onshore facilities, these “flyovers” can identify flooding, facility damage, road or other infrastructure problems, and spills. Offshore "flyovers" look for damaged drilling rigs, platform damage, spills, and possible pipeline damage.
- Many offshore drilling rigs are equipped with GPS locator systems, which allow federal officials and drilling contractors to remotely monitor the rigs’ location before, during and after a hurricane. If a rig is pulled offsite by the storm, locator systems allow crews to find and recover the rig as quickly and as safely as possible.
- Once safety concerns are addressed, operators will send assessment crews to offshore facilities to physically assess the facilities for damage.
- If facilities are undamaged, and ancillary facilities, such as pipelines that carry the oil and natural gas, are undamaged and ready to accept shipments, operators can begin restarting production. Drilling rigs can commence operations.
Reviewing every aspect of a disaster/emergency response plan on a regular basis is key in mitigating losses, including building on critical lessons learned from past experiences.
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