16 named storms predicted for 2011 Atlantic hurricane season

By Phaedra Friend Troy

The 2011 Atlantic hurricane season will likely disrupt offshore oil and gas operations in the Gulf of Mexico, as well as coastal refining and petrochemical facilities, but operators and service companies are prepared and committed to safe operations in the face of the upcoming hurricane season

Now in its 28th year of predicting hurricane activity, the Colorado State University Tropical Meteorology Project released its Extended Range Forecast of Atlantic Seasonal Hurricane Activity and Landfall Strike Probability for 2011, predicting above-average activity, although slightly reduced from its previous estimates. 

The weather experts anticipate an above-average probability that a major hurricane will make landfall in the United States and Caribbean. 

According to the report, the Atlantic Basin will see 16 named storms and 80 named storm days during the hurricane season, which spans from June to November. Additionally, the group forecasts nine hurricanes and five major hurricanes rating a Category 3, 4 or 5 in 2011. 

There is a 72 percent chance that a major hurricane will make landfall in the US, which is above the average for the last century of 52 percent. Also above the average over the last century, there is 48 percent chance that the East Coast will be hit (31 percent average) and a 47 percent chance that the Gulf Coast will be hit (30 percent average). 

The probability that a major hurricane will make landfall in the Caribbean is 61 percent. 

With the most active period of the hurricane season between August and October, further updates to the forecast will be issued in June and August. 

Oil and Gas Industry Readies for Hurricane Season 

Operators with oil and gas operations in the Gulf of Mexico are keenly aware of safety and the environment, routinely shutting-in production and evacuating staff ahead of major storms. 

The largest operator on the shelf, US independent Apache Corporation (NYSE:APA) demonstrates that consistent commitment to safety. 

“We go to work every day with the goal of operating safely and in an environmentally responsible manner,” Bill Mentz, director of public affairs for Apache told PennEnergy. “Being prepared for storms is a part of that commitment."

In 2005, the double whammy of Category 5 Hurricanes Katrina and Rita destroyed 115 platforms and damaged another 52, as well as damaged 535 pipeline segments and caused the near total shut-down of the US Gulf of Mexico’s oil and gas operations. Nonetheless, there was no major oil spill or loss of life due to preventative safety measures. 

Since those storms, the BOEMRE, producers and oilfield service companies have continued to improve hurricane safety measures. Notably, Brazilian producer Petrobras (NYSE:PBR) is soon to start production from its Cascade-Chinook development, using the US Gulf of Mexico’s first Floating Production Storage and Offloading vessel (FPSO), which can unhook from its wells and travel out of the path of oncoming storms. 

Usually occurring at the height of the summer driving season and the increased demand that, that creates, hurricane season and the threat of a major storm many times pushes the price of oil higher because of disrupted supply.



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