What Happens If A Hurricane Develops In The Gulf?
Hurricane Season started June 1st and runs until November 30th. This year they have been predicting it to be a much more active season than normal, but that is only a prediction and they have been wrong before. In my personal opinion, I think it is better to prepare for a much more active season, and be prepared for that than to do as so many do and wait until the last minute to make plans and decide what to do when time is too important to be wasting on making plans. We'll get into that later, but for now lets consider just the amount of equipment that is out in the gulf.
Right now, we are going to have to think about several things. No only do we need to be concerned about how a hurricane will effect the oil spilled into the gulf, and how that will travel, but we also need to consider the ships and rigs out in the gulf which are working on containment of oil, as well as cleaning up the oil. I have no idea what it takes for these rigs out there, 3 or 4 of them the same size as the Deepwater Horizen which went down after the massive explosion and fire, but there are a lot of other ships out there as well. So I went to the Deepwater Horizon Response website and found this:
Q: Hi. Thank you. There’s been some reports that the first major storm of the hurricane season might enter the Gulf as soon as next week. Could you walk us through what will happen with the collection operation if that happened next week?
ADMIRAL ALLEN: Sure. First of all, we’re watching the hurricane season very, very closely. I’m in constant contact with Jane Lubchenco, administrator of NOAA, and in fact, this week I talked to Craig Fugate, the FEMA administrator. We are informing each other of our respective operations. Of course you know they were involved with hurricane prep, so they would be anyway this time of year. And we do have that low depression that’s been informed in the Southeast Caribbean, and we’re watching that as well.
How we respond to a hurricane will be dictated by which production capacity we have on scene, and as you know this is evolving and will continue to evolve over the next two to three weeks. By the end of next week, let’s say, we would anticipate having three production vessels out there over the well site; the Discovery Enterprise, the Q4000 and the Helix Producer. Of those production capabilities, one of them is fixed hard to do the platform itself, and that’s the Discovery Enterprise down to the wellbore. The other two are on flexible couplings for vertical riser packages.
We would need in total to disconnect, recover to a safe harbor and return probably around 10 days to accomplish that, and we would probably have to start doing that anywhere between three to seven days in advance of the hurricane. Those procedures are being finalized right now. We’re discussing that with BP and the folks that are down at the area unified command in New Orleans. But if it happens—if we got notice that a hurricane was coming, we would need anywhere from three to seven days in advance of that to demobilize and redeploy the equipment.
Is that responsive?
Q: What kind of storm would have to be coming your way for you to do that? How—what kind of wind speed, or could you give anymore specifics on that?
ADMIRAL ALLEN: Well, what we’re going to do is—I was asked the question yesterday. I asked some folks working on how are mooring systems related to Saffir-Simpson Scales, because I think that’s the easiest way for people to understand that. And we will get that out to you in the next 24 hours. But basically, the least capable platform that’s in production to ride out heavy weather would be the Discovery Enterprise because it’s physically hooked to the well itself.
Anything that’s working through our vertical riser that’s floating with a flexible hose coupling will have a little bit more flexibility as far as the sea state, and the large vessels that will be coming on later in July, the shuttle tankers, have much more sea keeping capability, although none of them are designed or created, nor are the production mooring facilities and everything else, created to withstand a major hurricane. Exactly when the cutoff is as far as the sea state goes, we will put that together, and we’ll give you a brief in 24 hours.
June 22, 2010 Unified Command Press Briefing
Are there any storms brewing in the gulf that these guys should be worried about? Well there is Invest 93 that should be watched for development:
Weather Underground Tropical Storm Computer Model of Invest 93
That is Invest 93 and this is what Jeff Masters has to say about it:
Forecast for 93L
NHC is giving 93L a 40% chance of developing into a tropical depression by Thursday morning, which is a reasonable forecast. Given the storm's current lack of spin and relatively modest amount of heavy thunderstorms, the earliest I'd expect 93L to become a tropical depression would be Wednesday afternoon, with Thursday more likely. Wind shear is expected to be low, less than 10 knots, over the central and western Caribbean this week. Water temperatures will be warm, dry air absent, and the MJO favorable. I don't see any major impediments to the storm becoming a tropical depression by Thursday, and it is a bit of a surprise to me that the computer models have been reluctant to develop 93L. The GFS, NOGAPS, and UKMET models do not develop 93L, and the ECMWF model doesn't develop 93L until after it crosses the Yucatan Peninsula and enters the Gulf of Mexico in a about a week. The current (2am EDT) run of the GFDL model predicts 93L will be a weak tropical storm in the Gulf of Mexico in five days; its previous run had 93L as a major hurricane in the Gulf. Given all this model reluctance and the current disorganization of 93L, I give the storm a low (less than 20% chance) of becoming a hurricane in the Caribbean. Expect 93L to bring flooding rains of 3 - 6 inches to Jamaica, eastern Cuba, and southwestern Haiti today through Wednesday. These rains will spread to the Cayman Islands and central Cuba by Thursday, and western Cuba and Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula on Friday. The current run of the SHIPS model has 93L slowing down late this week to a forward speed of just 6 knots (7 mph) from its current speed of about 10 mph, in response to a weakening in the steering currents. A trough of low pressure is expected to swing down over the Eastern U.S. early next week. If this trough is strong enough and 93L develops significantly, the storm could get pulled northwards and make landfall along the northern Gulf of Mexico coast in the oil spill region. This is the solution of the Canadian GEM model. If 93L stays weak and/or the trough is not so strong, the storm would get pushed west-northwestwards towards the Texas coast. This is the solution of the ECMWF model. The amount of wind shear in the Gulf of Mexico next week is highly uncertain. There is currently a band of high shear near 30 knots over the Gulf, and some of the models predict this shear will remain over the Gulf over the next 7 - 10 days. However, other models predict that this band of high shear will retreat northwards and leave the Gulf nearly shear-free. The long-term fate of 93L remains very murky. My main concerns at this point are the potential for 3 - 6 inches of rain in Haiti over the next two days, and the possibility 93L could become a hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico next week.
Jeff Masters Weather Underground Blog
If the rigs in the gulf need a week to disengage what they are working on and move to safe harbor, then they are going to be running into some issues, especially in light of the fact that hurricane's are not predictable and sometimes they can blow up in strength and change direction pretty quickly depending on the weather circumstances.
If you have any interest in looking at the history of hurricanes in the Gulf/Atlantic you can find each year from 2009 all the way back to 1995 located at NOAA:
History of Hurricane Activity
There was also a new development today. The LRMC was removed and this caused quite a stir. It seems based on what Adm. Thad Allen had to say at the press conference, it seems that one of the ROV's hit a vent on the cap and it closed it which in turn caused some gas to go up the water tube they have run down there which is pumping warm water into the riser pipe to help prevent the formation of hydrates (crystals formed by the gas hitting the cold water).
The LRMC is at the surface now being repaired so the oil & gas is gushing freely until that cap is placed back on. Another concern is how this Tropical system starts to develop as they have said that they will need aprox. 5 days to disconnect everything and move to safety. So if they are paying attention and they think that this tropical system could come towards the rig's they will have to move out in just a few days time at the most, which means that for 10 days the pipe will gush unimpeded and that will bring a lot more oil up for any hurricane to push around with the winds, and bring up onto the beaches.