In 2005, and rightly so, the world was horrified when the federally built levees failed and metropolitan New Orleans was flooded. Less recognized was Hurricane Rita just weeks later, which because of its path through oil and gas platforms had an even larger impact on America’s energy economy.
The biggest hit since then is Hurricane Ida, a Category 4 storm that forced the evacuation of almost 300 rigs in the Gulf of Mexico, or about half of the facilities that supply energy to the nation and increasingly the world, from Louisiana’s natural gas export terminals.
The Wall Street Journal profiled the impact of Ida on the giant drilling platforms of Royal Dutch Shell. The Appomattox platform rising 16 stories above the water held up fine but painstaking inspections, after even relatively minor repairs, were needed before taking the rig online again.
The story also reminded us that the industry is a business operated by people, who must be kept out of harm’s way by evacuations but still must cope with storm damage to their homes and disruptions to their families.
Kimarie Michel, operations manager for the Appomattox platform, dealt not only with her pressing duties but damage to her home in Luling, where five children were without power for days.
That the big platforms made it through Ida well is good news but the reality is that the people who work on them, and those who help service them from Port Fouchon and other major onshore hubs, were violently disrupted by Ida’s winds and path.
Not only restoring production but cleaning up after Ida will require painstaking attention to oil spills on land, where levees in the region were overtopped and refineries and other facilities were flooded.
Perhaps the nation will move on, but we hope that Americans will remember that their economy and livelihoods depend upon a robust oil and gas production from the Gulf of Mexico. Ida, like the too-often-forgotten Rita, had a big impact.