Silence isn't golden when it comes to the oil-and-gas industry in the Gulf of Mexico.Recent reports from the Minerals Management Service, the arm of the Department of Interior that tracks production in the Gulf of Mexico, show little improvement in oil or natural gas production since Rita ripped through the Western Gulf of Mexico a week ago. Nearly all oil production and over 79% of natural gas production is still off-line across the Gulf of Mexico production belt. Although early reports were sanguine on the recovery prospects in the wake of Rita, reality is different. Nearly a dozen rigs were damaged, many tossing in the open Gulf of Mexico dragging anchor chain and other below-water components along the sea floor, likely damaging pipelines and gather systems. That is only one problem that will affect the recovery; there are a handful of others that will affect the speed of recovery.
So Close, Yet So Far AwayDamage estimates from oil and gas producers are trickling in as slowly as oil and natural gas are moving through Gulf of Mexico pipelines. One of the problems is the ability to transport offshore employees back to platforms and rigs because of damage to and a lack of transportation infrastructure. One exploration company executive told me last week that platform inspections would likely "take weeks" because it is currently "impossible" to get access to helicopters and boats. Companies like Offshore Logistics ( OLG) and Tidewater ( TDW), in the air and sea businesses respectively, will benefit greatly. Small work boats (200 to 220 foot vessels) are reportedly leasing for over $20,000 a day, more than double what the same boat could get for work just a year ago. "Any company that tells you they will have all their production back in the next week isn't telling the truth," the executive said.
Once out to sea, platforms and other infrastructure have to be inspected. That helps companies like Oceaneering International ( OII), which Thursday night announced it would build another six remotely operated vehicles (ROVs), a sign of confidence that the inspection and underwater work market will continue to improve. Also, companies like CalDive ( CDIS) and Superior Energy ( SPN) provide a number of services needed as companies work to recover from the hurricane sisters.