2010 Atlantic hurricane season predicted to be a whopper

By Phaedra Friend Troy

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has predicted that the 2010 Atlantic hurricane season, which started June 1, could be “extremely active.”

Look to PennEnergy and its daily Global Offshore Weather Report for up-to-date video coverage of offshore wind, waves and weather for the nine busiest offshore regions worldwide, including the Gulf of Mexico.

According to the NOAA, the six-month hurricane season could serve up to 23 named storms, of which 14 could become hurricanes. The agency has also predicted that the 2010 hurricane season could have up to seven major hurricanes -- Category 3,4 or 5 storms with winds reaching 111 miles per hour.

The season’s first named storm, Tropical Storm Agatha, has already formed and disbanded, causing 180 deaths in Central America, reports AP. Although this storm did not enter the Gulf of Mexico, experts forecast that the region will see its fair share.

“We typically see a small burst of activity around the second week of June across the Gulf of Mexico and the western Caribbean Sea,” said Chris Hebert, lead hurricane meteorologist with ImpactWeather. 

Watch ImpactWeather's 2010 Hurricane Report, featuring major seasonal preditors, historical trends and forecasted risk areas along the Gulf Coast.

“I think that there is a fair chance that we could see something develop in that region in another week or two. However, it’s more likely that the expected flurry of named storms will hold off until the third or fourth week of July and continue well into October," he continued. 

Oil and Gas Industry Ready for Storms

The 2009 hurricane season did not threaten offshore installations or coastal facilities, but major hurricanes in 2005, 2007 and 2008 have wreaked havoc on the petroleum industry.

Not only are offshore rigs and production facilities in the path of the storm, subsea pipelines can be damaged from major hurricanes, as well as onshore refineries and processing plants.

Learning from past experiences, the oil and gas industry has enacted myriad safety measures to ensure both the safety of its personnel, as well as the safety of its facilities and equipment in the face of hurricanes.

Many times, personnel are evacuated days before the hurricane approaches, shutting in production and readying equipment should the storm arrive. Additionally, design changes have been enacted to ensure facilities can withstand the winds and waves associated with hurricanes.

Furthermore, Petrobras is developing the Gulf of Mexico’s first FPSO for the Cascade and Chinook fields. FPSOs have been extremely effective in Asia Pacific waters because when a typhoon threatens, the production vessel can unhook and move out of the path of the storm.

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