Petroleum industry steps-up as 2010 Atlantic hurricane season kicks off

I can't help it: Hurricanes are exciting. I have lived on the US Gulf Coast my whole life -- from South Texas to New Orleans to Houston. I know that hurricanes can cause major damage; I've lived through them.

Nonetheless, just as the wind picks up outside my door, my sense of excitement has been lifted with the first major storm of the hurricane season.

Making landfall in northern Mexico as a Category 2 storm Wednesday night, Hurricane Alex raged through the Gulf Mexico, leaving little damage to offshore oil and gas installations in the US Gulf in its wake-- a testament to the safety and improved design measures enacted over the last several years by the petroleum industry.

Kicking HSE efforts into high gear, multiple oil and gas companies evacuated offshore production platforms, while drilling companies brought staff to safety onshore. Additionally, the BOE reported that more than a quarter of the oil production and nearly 15 percent of the natural gas production was shut-in in preparation for the storm passing.

In less than 24 hours, oil companies have already started assessing their facilities, restaffing offshore platforms and moving toward restarting production. In its efforts to step up safety and oversight, the BOE plans to inspect all facilities in the path of the storm.

Even the oil spill measures far east of the storm were affected by adverse weather, high waves and strong winds. While oil spill containment efforts plowed on in the face of the severe weather, oil spill clean-up processes were curtailed. Oil skimmers and controlled burns were halted, and onshore clean-up efforts were stymied by the weather -- although they are expected to ramp back up with the storm's passage.

One down, 22 to go. The 2010 Atlantic hurricane season is expected to be "extremely active," with up to 23 named storms, 14 hurricanes and seven major hurricanes (Category 3, 4 or 5) predicted.

I hope and pray in the face of all the negative press surrounding the offshore petroleum industry in the US Gulf, that the operators, service companies and drillers escape this hurricane season without major damages -- not only for the companies' sakes, but also for the country's sake.

The industry may not be able to withstand another blow to oil and gas exploration and production in the US Gulf. With opportunities abounding abroad, my fingers are crossed hoping that companies continue their efforts in the waters of the Gulf of Mexico.

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