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UpstreamOnline: Shell eyes buoy for back-up plan

Supermajor looks at offloading contingency for possible storms

By Upstream staff

Supermajor Shell is examining use of a fast deployable, relocateable mooring buoy as an oil offloading contingency plan should another hurricane wreck crucial pipeline systems and cripple output from the US Gulf.

Last year’s Hurricanes Katrina and Rita were responsible for damage to over 450 pipelines, including over 100 large diameter lines of over 10 inches or greater, according to a report issued by the Minerals Management Service (MMS) in May.

The Gulf’s production volumes were paralysed for months following the storms and are still not fully recovered .

Currently, Shell and others have sought out charters on the world’s limited fleet of dynamically-positioned tankers as contingencies against storm-related pipeline damage. However, Shell believes abuoy-based solution could be a viable alternative and provide emergency offloading to maintain the region’s production volumes.

Speaking in New Orleans last week, Greg Guidry, Shell’s Gulf of Mexico asset manager-east, said the company is keen to collaborate with industry on an idea that could fit, drawing parallels to MSRC the industry-owned oil spill response company.

“Shell does not see this as a competitive advantage,” Guidry told Upstream. “It is an industry reputation issue and a national security issue. The buoy would allow use of a big VLCC, which can moor directly to it. The problem you have is you need a system you can quickly deploy to where the damage is.”

Shell is eyeing Norwegian buoy provider Advanced Production&Loading’s Single Anchor Loading (SAL) system that with modification could provide a solution.

“That’s one candidate,” said Guidry. “The Hi-Load system is another. It basically converts a non-DP tanker to a DP tanker.”

The company barged oil from select fields in the Gulf, including Ram-Powell and Main Pass Block 252, which allowed for those fields to flow prior to downstream pipeline repairs being complete. Its Auger field also suffered pipeline damage last year.

Guidry believes a functional buoy system could have helped bring production back sooner.

The supermajor wants a fast deployable buoy in place for the 2007 Atlantic hurricane season. The company is engaged with the MMS about regulatory issues surrounding the use of such a method. “Our desire is to have a solution other than DP tankers in place for next year,” said Guidry.

Elsewhere, Shell will break ground this month on an expansion of its Robert, Louisiana, training facility, which played host to hundreds of displaced employees from New Orleans. and its sister non-profit websites,,,,,, and are owned by John Donovan. There is also a Wikipedia feature.

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