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Less than 30% of US Gulf oil still offline after hurricanes Ida, Nicholas


Shell Perdido platform shut in from Nicholas

Colonial Pipeline fully restored

Less than 500,000 b/d of oil-refining capacity offline after Valero restarts

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  • Jordan Blum
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Less than 30% of US Gulf of Mexico crude production remained offline Sept. 15 in the aftermath of hurricanes Ida and Nicholas, although the delayed restoration of onshore facilities continued to slow the return to normalcy in offshore operations.

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After 95% of US Gulf oil and gas production was shut in near the end of August as Category 4 Ida made a Louisiana landfall, only 537,193 b/d of crude, or 29.5%, remained offline Sept. 15, according to the US Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement.

The return of natural gas supplies continues to lag a bit more than oil. About 878.7 Mcf/d, or 39.4%, of natural gas production was still shut in, BSEE said.

Category 1 Nicholas, which hit the Texas Gulf Coast on Sept. 13, had a much more modest impact on the Western Gulf and on slowing restoration activities.

Shell confirmed Sept. 15 that it is awaiting downstream facilities to come back online before restoring production to its 100,000 boe/d Perdido platform in the Western Gulf after Nicholas' heavy winds.

Shell is awaiting the restart of Williams Cos. transportation and processing facilities after Nicholas, according to a source familiar with operations. Williams did not respond to a request for comment Sept. 15.

"Perdido is now ready to restart contingent on power being restored at a non-Shell downstream facility that lost power during the storm," Shell said in a statement late Sept. 14. "There is no timetable at this point on when the downstream power issue will be resolved. There are no plans for redeployment today given weather conditions."

Apart from its westernmost Perdido platform, Shell said its Appomattox, Enchilada/Salsa and Auger assets continue to ramp up production following Ida. As of late Sept. 14, Shell said its Mars, Ursa and Olympus assets remained shut in. Shell said damage assessments continue at its West Delta-143 offshore facility that serves as a transportation hub to onshore facilities.

Chevron said late Sept. 14 that it has redeployed essential personnel to all of its Chevron-operated facilities and restored full production at its Blind Faith asset and partial production at the Jack St. Malo, Big Foot and Tahiti platforms. Chevron said the Petronius facility is ready to produce once pipeline export routes resume operations.

Onshore and refining

In Texas, Colonial Pipeline said it resumed refinery products flows on Line 2 early on Sept. 15, restoring the major fuel artery to normal operations in the aftermath of Nicholas.

Colonial initially shut down both Line 1 and Line 2 from the Houston area because of customers' power outages disrupting supply chains. However, Line 1 was restored later on Sept. 14 and now Line 2 is back up and running as well.

"We have returned to normal operations, based on shipper volume availability, on both main Lines 1 and 2," said Colonial spokesperson Eric Abercrombie. "Colonial Lines 3 and 4 continue to operate normally."

The Colonial Pipeline is the country's primary fuel artery for much of the Southeast and the East Coast. Colonial typically delivers more than 100 million gal/d of fuels. Colonial stretches more than 5,500 miles from the Houston refining hub to New York Harbor, supplying about 45% of all the gasoline and diesel fuel consumed on the US East Coast.

In late August, during Ida, Colonial also had temporarily shut Lines 1 and 2 from Houston to Greensboro, North Carolina for precautionary reasons. As with Nicholas, Colonial's Lines 3 and 4 from North Carolina to New Jersey never ceased operations.

Onshore in Louisiana, Chevron said completed its assessment of its Empire Terminal and approved it for receipts. All crude deliveries from Empire are approved other than deliveries to Phillips 66's Alliance Refinery, which is expected to remain closed for some time.

Chevron said its Fourchon Terminal is approved for all deepwater sour crude receipts and deliveries.

Officials at Port Fourchon, where Ida made landfall, said Sept. 15 that water services finally were restored after some delays, although power remains down. Port tenants are continuing to assess their damage. The US Coast Guard set Port Fourchon as "port open with restrictions."

Port Fourchon also is the home of LOOP's onshore facilities, which includes a booster station and Clovelly Dome Storage Terminal. LOOP, the only deepwater port in the US capable of loading VLCCs with crude, had suspended deliveries ahead of Ida.

LOOP has said its "supply chain is functioning" as the offshore oil port continues to work with shippers to receive and deliver crude oil to regional refineries.

Much of the return of the onshore infrastructure depends on the restoration of electricity.

While the Greater New Orleans metro area is mostly restored and 95% of power is back for all of the Louisiana customers that lost power, almost 50% of the hardest-hit Lafourche, St. Charles and Terrebonne parishes remain without power, including refining or port hubs in Port Fourchon and Houma, said Louisiana utility Entergy.

Nearly all of those areas are expected to receive power "no later than" Sept. 29, Entergy said.

Out of about 2.2 million b/d of oil refining capacity taken offline in Louisiana ahead of Ida, less than 500,000 b/d will remain offline longer term after Valero Energy finishes restarting its Meraux and St. Charles facilities.

The Phillips 66 Alliance Refinery and Shell's Norco Refinery are expected to take longer to restore because of the more extensive damages and flooding that occurred. No Texas refineries are known to have shuttered from Nicholas.