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Port Fourchon expecting electricity return in a few days after devastation from Hurricane Ida


Power restoration is delayed from previous end of September estimate

Normal operations expected by end of November

Port Fourchon services most US Gulf of Mexico oil and gas drilling, production

Port Fourchon, a critical maritime hub for the offshore oil and gas sector, is expected to see its power restored by the end of this week as it continues to ramp up its operations nearly 40 days after Hurricane Ida made landfall at its facilities roughly 90 miles south of New Orleans, the port's executive director said.

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While the hope was for utility provider Entergy to restore the port's electricity by the end of September, a few transmission hiccups have slowed the process but should soon be finalized, said Port Fourchon Executive Director Scott Chiasson in an Oct. 5 interview.

Despite only receiving minimal electricity from backup power generators, Port Fourchon is about 55% up and running and should quickly grow to 75% after power is restored, Chiasson said. Then, as the most extensive damages are repaired, the port should return to roughly normal operations by the end of November, he said, about three months after Ida's Louisiana landfall.

"It's day-by-day but, by the end of this week, we should have the majority, if not all, of the port that's capable of handling electricity back online," Chiasson said. "They're working diligently. Entergy had a little issue with one of the transmission legs."

Ida, which made an Aug. 29 landfall near Port Fourchon, was one of the most powerful hurricanes to ever hit the US Gulf Coast. And, while Ida was designated a strong Category 4 hurricane, Chiasson said Port Fourchon recorded Category 5 winds in excess of 160 mph.

"We took a Cat 5 on the chin," he insisted.

The status of Port Fourchon is paramount to the offshore oil and gas sector because it serves as the biggest maritime transportation hub to and from the deepwater platforms, including many of the nearby heliports that carry crews.

"We're the day-to-day supply chain and support facility for deepwater oil and gas," Chiasson said. "We're basically the jumping-off point and intermodal hub for all the liquid commodities."

After 95% of US Gulf oil and gas production was shut in near the end of August as Ida made landfall, more than 100,000 b/d is still believed to remain offline. The US Energy Information Administration estimated Gulf oil production at 1.845 million b/d in July prior to Ida. On Oct. 4, Shell said it restored production to its Olympus platform, bringing about 100,000 b/d back online, but its Mars and Ursa facilities could remain offline until early 2022 because of a damaged transportation platform in the Gulf.

In the immediate aftermath of Ida, the main road to Port Fourchon remained closed for days and the waterways were blocked because of all the debris and sunken vessels. A one-time pickup of large-scale debris from Fourchon facilities on port property is scheduled to begin on Oct. 13. And the waterways are largely open to traffic again.

Port Fourchon also is the home of LOOP's onshore facilities, which include 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 but has been back online for weeks.

"They're getting themselves back up, and they're pretty close to normal now," Chiasson said of LOOP.

Aviation operations are mostly restored as well, he said, after many companies temporarily relocated helipad activities, including to Texas. Chevron's Fourchon Terminal is back up and is also flying again from Galliano near the South Lafourche Airport. Helicopter company Bristow Group is operational again, Chiasson said, although aviation operator RLC sustained more extensive damages to its facilities and will need more time.

Longer term, Chiasson said, Port Fourchon's companies are upgrading as they rebuild.

"The customers are going to come back bigger and better than before," he said.