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Hurricanes and the Oil and Natural Gas Industry Preparations

America's oil and natural gas industry is committed to protecting the environment and to continuously improving its hurricane preparation and response plans. After any hurricane or tropical storm, the goal is to return to full operations as quickly and as safely as possible. For the 2015 hurricane season, the industry continues to build upon critical lessons learned from 2008's major hurricanes, Gustav and Ike, as well as other powerful storms, such as 2005's Katrina and Rita.

API plays two primary roles for the industry in preparing for hurricanes. First, it helps the industry gain a better understanding of the environmental conditions in and around the Gulf of Mexico during hurricane or tropical storm activity and then assists industry in using that knowledge to make offshore and onshore facilities less vulnerable. Second, API coordinates with member companies, other industries and with federal, state and local governments to prepare for hurricanes and return operations as quickly and as safely as possible.

API member companies also independently work to improve preparedness for hurricanes and other natural or man-made disasters. They have, for example, reviewed and updated emergency response plans, established redundant communication paths and made pre-arrangements with suppliers to help ensure they have adequate resources during an emergency.

The API Subcommittee on Offshore Structures, the International Association of Drilling Contractors, and the Offshore Operators Committee, serve as liaisons to regulatory agencies, coordinate industry review of critical design standards, and provide a forum for sharing lessons learned from previous hurricanes.

These combined efforts are critical since the Gulf of Mexico provides 17 percent of the oil and about five percent of the natural gas produced in the United States. Approximately 78 percent of the Gulf oil supply comes from deepwater facilities and the Gulf Coast region accounts for over 45 percent of total U.S. refining capacity.

Upstream (Exploration and Production)

During the major 2005 hurricanes, waves were higher and winds were stronger than anticipated in deeper parts of the Gulf so the industry moved away from viewing it as a uniform body of water. Evaluating the effects of those and other storms, helped scientists discover that the Central Gulf of Mexico was more prone to hurricanes because it acts as a gathering spot for warm currents that can strengthen a storm.

The revised wind, wave and water current measurements ("metocean" data) prompted API to reassess its Recommended Practices (RPs) for industry operations in the region.

The upstream segment continues to integrate the updated environmental (metocean) data on how powerful storms affect conditions in the Gulf of Mexico into its offshore structure design standards. This effort led to the publication in 2008 of an update to RP 2SK, Design and Analysis of Stationkeeping Systems for Floating Structures, that provides guidance for design and operation of Mobile Offshore Drilling Unit (MODU) mooring systems in the Gulf of Mexico during the hurricane season. API RP 95J, Gulf of Mexico Jack-up Operations for Hurricane Season, which recommends locating jack-up rigs on more stable areas of the sea floor, and positioning platform decks higher above the sea surface, was also updated.
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API in the past year has issued several new standards that improve structural design and assessment considerations for Gulf hurricanes. These include:

Recommended Practice 2A-WSD, Planning, Designing, and Construction Fixed Offshore Platforms - Working Stress Design, which serves as a guide for the design and construction of new fixed offshore platforms and for the relocation of existing platforms used for the drilling, development, production, and storage of hydrocarbons in offshore areas.

Recommended Practice 2GEO, <