The 2022 Hurricane Season's Impact on Offshore Oil in the Gulf of Mexico

Arnold & Itkin

2022 was expected to be an above-average season for Atlantic hurricanes, and though the number of named storms and hurricanes was on the low end of the NOAA’s predictions, those that did strike caused significant damage.

Hurricane Fiona, the first major hurricane of the season, caused at least 31 deaths in the Caribbean and Canada as well as more than $875 million in damage.

Hurricane Ian, a category 4 storm, struck Cuba and the southeastern United States, causing an estimated $50 billion in property damage and claiming at least 157 lives.

Fiona and Ian were the only two major hurricanes of the 2022 Atlantic hurricane season, which includes any hurricanes classified as category 3 or greater (with sustained winds of at least 111 mph). Six other hurricanes and six named storms also occurred.

Although the 2022 season was destructive and deadly, its impact on the offshore oil industry—specifically offshore workers—was relatively mild in comparison to previous years.

Hurricane Ian Disrupts 11% of Oil Production in the Gulf of Mexico

Hurricane Ian was the sole storm of the 2022 Atlantic hurricane season to significantly disrupt offshore oil production in the Gulf of Mexico. About 11% of production in the Gulf was shut-in by September 27 in preparation for the storm, which hit the area as a category 4 hurricane.

Oil companies evacuated personnel from 14 platforms and rigs in anticipation of the storm, and approximately 190,000 barrels of oil per day in production were lost as a result of the disruption.

Tankers and vessels also cleared the eastern region of the Gulf of Mexico.

These measures meant that, although production was affected, no crew members were reported lost or injured as a result of Hurricane Ian or any other named storm in 2022.

This is a far cry from 2021, when the crew of the Noble-owned and Shell-leased drillship, Globetrotter II, was left to weather Hurricane Ida. Her crew of 142 were tossed about, believing they were going to capsize and sink, as 150-mph winds and 80-foot waves battered the vessel. The Coast Guard was able to rescue all of the crew members, but not before they suffered significant mental and physical trauma.

In 2020, Hurricane Zeta nearly claimed another rig, Transocean’s Deepwater Asgard.

Offshore companies must develop and implement hurricane preparedness plans that protect their workers and their rigs from inclement weather. Hurricanes will strike, it’s just a matter of when and where. Each platform, rig, or vessel must have its own policies and procedures to shut-in operations and evacuate the crew.

Offshore workers made it through the 2022 hurricane season without any storm-related losses in the Gulf of Mexico, but will we be so lucky in 2023? We must hold oil and gas companies accountable for putting safety first in any weather.

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Find out more about hurricanes and your rights as an offshore worker by calling (888) 346-5024. Arnold & Itkin’s maritime attorneys have been fighting for workers’ rights since 2004, and we are ready to see how we can help you.

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