Offshore Preparation

Offshore Preparation for Shell Gulf Coast Facilities. Learn about the phases of hurricane preparation and response that take place at Shell's offshore facilities in the Gulf of Mexico (GOM).


Phase I

Ongoing Preparation and Planning

The Hurricane Incident Command Team plans and conducts evacuation table-top drills in order to prepare personnel, and identify and correct any inefficiencies before there is a need for an actual evacuation.

The hurricane response plan is evaluated and updated annually, taking into consideration learning’s from the previous year’s activity.

Generators, batteries, communications systems, and other equipment that will be used during the hurricane are tested prior to hurricane season to ensure they will be operational if needed.

Shell’s platforms are built to the American Petroleum Institute’s most stringent standards (RP 2A).

All Mobile Offshore Drilling Units (MODUs), or generically referred to as offshore deepwater drilling rigs, have GPS tracking systems so that if the unit becomes unmoored, it can be found and damaged can be assessed relatively quickly.

Phase II

Tropical System or Hurricane has Formed and is Heading Toward the GOM

Weather monitoring

  • Shell contracts with the private meteorological and forecast firm Impact Weather, which provides up-to-date hurricane information from satellite images and other data. Shell also uses the National Weather Service.

Assessment of projects and personnel

  • From the time the storm is identified, meetings are held twice a day (or as needed) by the hurricane incident commander with designated operations managers, drilling superintendents, communications teams, and transport (marine and air logistics support) managers. This team begins the process of assessing the operational activities, people count, and time it will take to safely shut in operations and evacuate personnel.
  • In general, once a hurricane or severe storm crosses 60 degrees longitude, the Hurricane Team is fully engaged so that it is able to respond and take appropriate actions swiftly. In addition, systems that develop quickly in or near the Gulf of Mexico constitute an urgent threat, since Shell has facilities all across the GOM.
  • Downstream oil and gas infrastructure will also be shutdown as a storm approaches the northern GOM.

Evacuating personnel

  • Shell begins evacuating non-essential personnel from offshore platforms and drilling rigs, beginning with sites closest to the developing hurricane’s anticipated path. Non-essential personnel include construction and maintenance workers, caterers and others not directly responsible for producing and/or drilling operations.
  • In many instances, Shell has to begin evacuations and production shut-in days before a hurricane is expected to reach a facility. Shell leaders consider numerous factors before making the decision to evacuate and shut-in production.

Most Shell assets are in deep-water, which means it takes longer for helicopters and/or boats to pick up personnel. Shell does not own these helicopters or boats. Contracts are in place for these services throughout the year, with additional resources contracted and dedicated to Shell during the hurricane season to ensure that Shell can safely and efficiently evacuate offshore personnel.

Drilling in deep-water means it takes longer to remove and secure drill pipe from these greater depths.

  • Shell has numerous subsea wells. These require special safety, environmental and operational considerations for shutting in and can take as long as four to five days.
  • We also conduct deep-water and ultra deep-water drilling operations that may take three to five days to shut-in, but have no production impact.
  • In determining who is evacuated at this early stage, consideration is also given to those workers (Shell or contract) whose homes are in the hurricane’s anticipated path.

Phase III

Dangerous Conditions are Anticipated within 72 hours

Evacuations escalate

  • Minimal crews of 16 or fewer essential production personnel per platform remain offshore. This is the crew that will be responsible for final shut down and securing the platform if the hurricane continues to develop and move toward a particular asset in the GOM.
  • If needed (based on track of the storm and potential impact), the Hurricane Response Team is relocated to an alternate site, ensuring that there is no interruption in the evacuation, assessment, and recovery processes.

Begin shutting-in production, curtailing drilling operations and securing installations

  • Production is shut-in starting with sub-sea and long-lead wells that require special shut-in procedures.
  • All equipment is secured and clamped or tied down.

Phase IV

Hurricane is Imminent

When a hurricane's arrival is imminent, with production shut-in and facilities secured, Shell evacuates the skeleton crews that remain offshore. Because all personnel not essential to producing and drilling operations will have already left, each platform can be evacuated in a single helicopter flight.

Shell specific shut-in numbers are not issued externally. Each day, the Minerals Management Service provides an overall GOM production shut-in status, as of the previous day.

Phase V

Storm is Passed

When it’s safe to fly, operations, drilling and structural engineering personnel will conduct an aerial assessment of damage by airplane.

If the platform or rig is deemed safe, crews will re-deploy in stages to conduct a more thorough damage inspection.

Once power and communications are restored, marine logistics support is established and the locations are deemed safe, operations personnel return to platforms and drilling rigs to restart production and recommence drilling activities. Production ramp up at each impacted facility will vary, but complete GOM production ramp up to pre-storm levels may take three to five days, if there is no damage to the facility.

Upon passage of the storm, the affected segments of the downstream oil and gas infrastructure are pressure tested to ensure integrity. During the testing, helicopter overflights are made to observe the Right-of-Way. In some cases, it may also be necessary to inspect the pipelines/risers with either sonar equipment, a Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) or divers. Once the system has been validated and communications restored, the lines are restarted. (Shell stocks a compliment of pipeline repair equipment that can be readily deployed to handle a variety of repair scenarios, if required.)

With operations restored, the hurricane response team conducts a review to identify process effectiveness and any opportunities for improvement.


This information is meant to provide a general overview of hurricane procedures. Certain circumstances may require a deviation from the above, in a particular case.

Customers of Shell and its affiliates may have other specific inquiries related to storm or hurricane impacts and should contact their account manager with those questions.  Nothing herein shall be construed as a declaration of force majeure. All declarations of force majeure will be made and related notices given in accordance with the provisions of the affected customer contracts.


Onshore Preparation

Onshore Preparation for Shell and Motiva Gulf Coast Refineries and Chemical Plants.

Because refining of crude oil into gasoline and other oil products is critical to meeting our nation’s daily energy needs, disruptions in these operations can have an immediate impact on the nation’s gasoline supply and petrochemicals.

To ensure the flow of supplies from Shell and Motiva facilities, our plants prepare and follow detailed hurricane planning and operations procedures that are reviewed and tested prior to each hurricane season.

A Phased Approach

Shell and Motiva follow a phased approach for storm season preparations, beginning with pre-season planning activities. When storm season begins, plant management teams monitor storms, and if necessary, implement procedures to secure facilities following specific timelines that are based on the direction and magnitude of the storm. After a storm passes, plant managers implement post-hurricane activities.

In advance of a storm, all critical plant functions are considered, including computing services, communications, utilities, and health, safety, and environment. Shell and Motiva also assess the potential impact on deliveries of crude oil and petrochemical feedstocks, outgoing distribution of products, and onsite inventories.

The severity and proximity of a hurricane or major storm to the facility will determine actions taken, including orderly shutdowns of facilities and the evacuation of personnel.


Focus on Preparedness

Shell and Motiva’s top priority is to protect people, assets, nearby communities and the environment. If conditions lead to an evacuation, Shell and Motiva are prepared to carry out plans in a safe and orderly way. Shell and Motiva work with the media and other communication channels to notify employees not to report to work when conditions may be unsafe.

Shell and Motiva have a workforce on duty at all times that can operate and maintain a facility safely, or if need be, shut down the units in a safe and controlled manner. The team that stays behind during a storm to maintain legal control of the site has a mix of expertise deemed essential for the situation. This often includes personnel who work on logistics, security, site supervision, and an EMT. This team is then responsible for communicating with Shell’s Emergency Operations Center.

Impossible Predictions

It is impossible to state with certainty what hurricane category level each facility could withstand. There are many variables to consider, such as strength, duration and path of a hurricane, and its proximity to the Shell or Motiva facility.

The keys to hurricane management for Shell and Motiva are advance notice, tracking, and timely preparation to protect people and property. 


Plant Shutdowns and Restarts

Facts About Plant Shutdowns and Restarts

Each refinery and petrochemical plant has its own specific shut down plan. The shut down could be partial or complete, planned or emergency. Regardless of the circumstance, extreme care is taken to shut down and secure each processing unit. The goal is to achieve a safe shutdown that will protect the equipment and enable a timely restart following a storm.

  • Restarting refinery and petrochemical facilities requires a well-planned and sequential process to ensure safety and success.
  • Each processing facility is unique. The restarting of production units must follow a specific order because some units can operate independently and some must run in conjunction with other units. As a result, the time required to restart each plant will vary.
  • Even if a facility has not been damaged by a storm, it could take from one day to over a week to restart. If there is damage, restarting could take considerably longer.
  • Restarting a refinery begins with a full damage assessment and the creation of a repair plan and schedule.
  • Everything must be inspected, including processing units, piping, electrical, cooling towers, and storage tanks.
  • Power is not restored until the assessment team is confident that nothing is damaged.
  • The process of and ability to restore electrical power depends on a plant’s power system. Some have cogeneration plants that allow them to make their own electricity. Others rely solely on the electrical grid, which can be compromised in a storm. Still others use a combination of their own and purchased electricity.
  • It is critical that all utilities needed for a restart are available. This includes steam, water, hydrogen, and oxygen, in addition to electricity.
  • Access to crude oil— either from a pipeline or a ship— must then be restored.
  • Once the crude is secured, the boilers and heaters are turned on in sequence. Because these run at high temperatures and pressures, it takes a considerable amount of time (approximately 2-3 days) for these to heat up and become fully functional.
  • Before a restart is accomplished, all systems must be tested to ensure they are operating properly and safely.
  • Finally, the process of refining crude oil into gasoline and other products takes from 12 to 24 hours.

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