Reduced Offshore Production Lowers Hurricane Risk

By MarEx 2015-08-28 21:03:24

Offshore energy production in the Gulf of Mexico has experienced relatively minor disruptions because of tropical storms and hurricanes in recent years, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has predicted a below-normal 2015 hurricane season in its updated Atlantic Hurricane Season Outlook, released on August 6.

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Petroleum Supply Monthly and Natural Gas Monthly

Hurricane-related risk to total U.S. crude oil and natural gas production has decreased over recent years as the share of total U.S. production originating in the Gulf of Mexico has declined sharply. In 2003, 27 percent of the nation’s crude oil was produced in the Gulf of Mexico; by 2014, that share had declined to 16 percent. The Gulf of Mexico’s share of natural gas production has also declined from a high of 26 percent in 1997 to five percent in 2014.

This decline in the Gulf of Mexico’s share of production has reduced the vulnerability of U.S. crude oil and natural gas supply to hurricanes. Based on NOAA’s outlook, EIA estimated in its June Short-Term Energy Outlook that storm-related disruptions in the Gulf of Mexico during the 2015 hurricane season would total 9.7 million barrels of crude oil and 15.9 billion cubic feet of natural gas, or 3.5 percent and 2.8 percent of total Gulf of Mexico oil and natural gas production, respectively, and even smaller percentages of total U.S. production. No crude oil or natural gas production in the Gulf of Mexico was shut in during the 2014 hurricane season, and EIA estimated a 14 percent probability that production during the current hurricane season will also be unaffected.

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Note: TS = tropical storm, H# = category # hurricane.

Strong storms are still capable of causing significant production outages. Hurricane Katrina, which made landfall on the U.S. Gulf Coast 10 years ago on Saturday, and Hurricane Rita, striking less than a month after Katrina, shut down almost all offshore natural gas and crude oil production for several days, with production remaining at reduced levels for months after the hurricanes. In September 2008, Hurricanes Gustav and Ike shut down almost all production in the Gulf of Mexico. Even if the offshore rigs are not directly in the projected path of the hurricane, these rigs may be evacuated as a precautionary measure.

The Gulf Coast is also home to about half of U.S. refining capacity, and several natural gas processing and distribution facilities that could also be affected by severe weather. However, high levels of crude oil inventories, both domestically and globally, could mitigate the supply impacts of weather-related disruptions. Similarly, natural gas processing capacity has been added in areas beyond the Gulf Coast in recent years, lessening the potential effect of storm-related processing outages.

Energy infrastructure in other areas of the eastern United States is also susceptible to hurricane-related disruptions. Hurricanes Irene (2011) and Sandy (2012) caused extensive damage to power transmission and distribution lines in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast states. In addition to direct impacts to millions of electricity customers, the damage to the power infrastructure temporarily shut down some petroleum refining capacity, natural gas processing, and distribution terminals.

To help analysts assess potential storm impacts along the Gulf Coast, EIA maintains an energy disruptions page and a Gulf of Mexico fact sheet. The map contains information on energy infrastructure and real-time storm information. The fact sheet combines this map with more detailed data on crude oil and natural gas production in the region.


Panama Canal Authority Suspends Draft Restriction

By MarEx 2015-08-28 20:35:03

The Panama Canal Authority (ACP) has announced the suspension of the first draft restriction that was scheduled to go into effect September 8, 2015.

Although the level of Gatun Lake is still well below normal levels for this time of the year, and the “El Niño” phenomenon is still present in the region, the amount of rainfall received in the Canal Watershed during the last few days, in addition to the water conservation measures implemented and the works done to deepen the navigational channel, has made it possible for the Panama Canal to suspend the announced restriction.

Therefore, and until further notice, vessels will continue to be allowed to transit at their maximum Panama Canal approved draft up to 12.04 meters (39.5 feet) Tropical Fresh Water (TFW).

The Panama Canal will continue to monitor and manage the water levels of Gatun and Alhajuela Lakes. The draft restrictions may again be necessary should weather conditions change and the level of Gatun Lake begins to fall, in which case, the restriction will be announced with at least four weeks advance notice.


ClassNK to Release Guidelines on Composite Propellers

By MarEx 2015-08-28 20:14:18

Classification society ClassNK has announced that it will release the world’s first Guidelines on Composite Propellers on August 31.

The strength and corrosion resistance of composite materials makes them widely used in fields such as aerospace, automobiles and wind power generation, and their scope of application has been further expanded due to their usefulness.

The substitute composite material carbon fiber reinforced plastic (CFRP) weighs in at around just 1/5 of aluminum-bronze. Despite its ultra-lightweight composition, CFRP exhibits the same or more strength compared to the aluminum-bronze composite materials used in conventional propellers.

Due to its lightweight, CFRP propeller shafts can be manufactured with smaller diameters, reducing costs. In addition, by taking advantage of CFRP’s strength, it is possible to produce thinner propellers with smaller blade areas, potentially increasing the propeller’s efficiency.

In order to apply a composite propeller to ships, the material must have the required performance at least equal to existing aluminum-bronze composite materials, and it is necessary to confirm in advance that the composite propeller as an industrial product can be manufactured with uniform quality.

In May 2014, ClassNK granted approval for the design and manufacturing process of the CFRP propeller. The propeller was developed with support from the ClassNK Joint R&D for Industry Program and marked the world’s first installation of a CFRP propeller on a merchant vessel.

Based on the knowledge obtained through this joint R&D project, ClassNK comprehensively summarized the requirements for the approval of the manufacturing process for composite propellers and the testing and inspection of the product in the form of guidelines to assist in the effective use of composite material propellers on ships.

The Guidelines for Composite Propellers (Part on Manufacturing/Product Inspection) will be available on the ClassNK website.


Barack Obama and the Walruses

By MarEx 2015-08-28 19:04:32

U.S. President Barack Obama travels to Alaska on Monday for a three-day visit meant to spotlight warming temperatures, melting glaciers, rising seas and the need to support a strong climate deal during the global climate negotiations in Paris.

Obama will attend the U.S. government hosted GLACIER meeting, and his visit comes at a time when, on both sides of the Bering Strait, summer sea ice has once more dropped to a level that is driving thousands of walruses onto coastal beaches.

Environmental organizations are voicing their concerns.

5,000 Walruses

In Ryrkaypiy in Chukotka, Russia, an estimated 5,000 walruses are hauled out, while across in Alaska, thousands more are hauled out near the village of Point Lay. WWF highlighted the significance of Obama’s visit to the Arctic in a statement, raising concerns about the animals and their environment.

“This past July was the second warmest on record for Alaska,” says Pete Ewins, WWF Arctic Species specialist. “So it’s not surprising that we’re seeing these animals on the beaches quite early. While haul outs can be potentially dangerous to the animals gathered on shore, we’re concerned about what events such as these mean for the health of the entire Arctic marine system.”

During the late summer and early fall, the Pacific walruses of the Chukchi sea north of Alaska and of Chukotka (Russia) prefer to rest on sea ice over the shallow waters of the continental shelf. In those areas they can readily access food on the seabed. However, in most years since 2007 when Arctic sea ice extent plummeted to a record low, walruses have been forced ashore because there has been no sea ice over their preferred shallow feeding areas.

Villagers at both haul out locations are working to protect resting walrus herds from curious onlookers, as walruses hauled out in such large numbers on beaches are prone to being stampeded, killing smaller animals in the crush.

Earth’s Wild Places

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) says Obama’s Arctic trip gives him a golden opportunity to demonstrate global leadership, protect one of the last wild places on earth, and make a real difference in our climate future by taking Arctic waters off the table for oil and gas drilling.

“Climate change is already imposing huge and mounting costs on our people, and nowhere is the toll more evident than in Alaska,” says NRDC President Rhea Suh. “Straddling the ragged front lines of climate chaos, the state both suffers from this environmental crisis and contributes to it through the production of fossil fuels.

“One of the most rapidly warming places on the planet, Alaska is heating up twice as fast as the rest of the nation. The first seven months of this year were the second-hottest ever recorded for the period in the state, which averaged 4.9 degrees Fahrenheit above its 20th-century norm.

“Its glaciers and ice fields are melting by the cubic mile and at an accelerating pace, as President Obama will see for himself when he travels outside the city of Seward, site of the Kenai Fjords National Park. Melting glaciers are one reason climate scientists say global sea level is on track to rise by at least three feet, very possibly much more, by century’s end.”

The president will also hear how the loss of coastline is already affecting indigenous people when he visits the northern port of Kotzebue, 26 miles north of the Arctic Circle, in a state that is home to 40 percent of the federally recognized tribes in the country.

Oil and Gas

“President Obama’s answer to the climate threat has been clear and unstinting,” says Suh. “No leader anywhere has done more to cut the dangerous carbon pollution that’s driving climate chaos. He’s cut it from our cars, our trucks, and our power plants, and he’s laid out an expansive vision for a clean energy future centered around efficiency gains and more wind and solar power.

“He’s opposed efforts to allow oil and gas development on Alaska’s vast Arctic National Wildlife Reserve, nearly 12 million acres of which he’s proposed to designate as protected wilderness, which would put it off-limits to the fossil-fuel industry in perpetuity.

“That’s leadership when and where it counts, and it’s come in the face of virulent opposition by an industry hunkering down to anchor our future in the dirty fuels of the past and all the damage, destruction, and danger they bring.”

However, Obama has also proposed allowing oil and gas development in the Arctic Ocean and off the Atlantic coast, beginning as early as 2017. He’s permitted exploratory drilling in Arctic waters, which Shell Oil began this month.

Memo From Our Grandchildren

Sah says: “Memo from our grandchildren: We’re not going to be addicted to oil 30 years from now. Let’s be honest with ourselves. If we’re still burning so much oil three decades from now that we have to put Arctic waters at risk, we will have forsaken the promise of a clean energy future. We will have forsaken our obligation to our children, with catastrophic consequences.

“President Obama has never been one to bet on failure. He’s worked, instead, to ensure success. The Alaska trip offers him a historic chance to build on hope and progress. It’s time to protect the Arctic waters once and for all, for the sake of all they support, for the sake of our climate, for the sake of our children’s future.”


Watch: U.S. Navy Remembers Hurricane Katrina

By MarEx 2015-08-28 18:21:00

It’s been a decade since Hurricane Katrina ravaged the Gulf Coast.

The U.S. Navy remembers those who suffered and lost so much during Hurricane Katrina, the largest natural disaster in U.S. history.

Here is a look at the Navy and Marine Corps team assisting those in need.

All Hands Magazine gives a one of a kind perspective of Hurricane Katrina.

Follow along the relief efforts with a one of a kind perspective through the eyes of Capt. Richard Callas (USN, Ret.) commanding officer of the USS Iwo Jima in 2005.