Hurricanes May Snap Gulf of Mexico Pipelines, Study Says

May 28, 2010

Hurricanes could rupture underwater oil and natural gas pipelines in the Gulf of Mexico, which is already struggling with the worst oil spill in U.S. history, according to a new study by researchers at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory in Mississippi.

The study looked at the effects from 2004’s Hurricane Ivan, which disrupted several underwater pipelines in the eastern Gulf of Mexico.

Disruption of the seafloor can reach depths of 300 feet from destructive currents, which can continue for up to a week after the hurricane passes, the researchers found.

“It doesn’t go away, even after the hurricane passes,” said Hemantha Wijesekara, lead author of the study, according to a statement issued by American Geophysical Union, which will publish the study’s results on June 10.

Hurricane Ivan damaged or destroyed 22 platforms, some of which had been set adrift by the September 2004 storm.

The storm also damaged and disrupted 13 undersea oil and natural gas pipelines triggering an oil spill on the Louisiana coast an cutting Gulf’s production of gas for weeks.

(Reporting by Erwin Seba; Editing by John Picinich)

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