The federal government reports that far more underwater pipelines in the Gulf of Mexico were damaged by hurricanes last year than they realized. Weather and the pressure to find divers and oil-rig workers have overtaxed available resources. There are thousands of miles of pipeline that need to be inspected and tested before oil and gas can flow again.
Over 100 platforms were destroyed in the gulf during last year's hurricane season. But assessing that damage was the easy part. According to Chris Oynes at the federal Minerals Management Serivce, pipelines on the seafloor are harder to survey. "There are about 30 to 35,000 miles of pipelines out in federal water," Oynes said. "That's like spaghetti."
Repairing and improving the system will be a central topic this weekend in Houston, where thousands of offshore engineers are meeting to discuss protecting the oil infrastructure of the gulf.