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Houston Chronicle: Oil spill adds to woes of a Louisiana town. Crude leaks in Chalmette, other sites along river: “Millions of gallons of crude oil burst forth from ruptured storage terminals and pipelines in Louisiana… The leaking facilities are owned by Royal Dutch Shell, Chevron, Murphy Oil and Bass Enterprises Production…”: Posted Sunday 11 Sept 2005




As if the residents of Chalmette, La., didn't have enough to worry about with entire neighborhoods underwater, this week an oil spill coated homes, cars, animals and streets in crude.


According to the Coast Guard, Hurricane Katrina appears to have caused more damage - both onshore and offshore - to energy industry infrastructure than first suspected.


Millions of gallons of crude oil burst forth from ruptured storage terminals and pipelines in Louisiana, stretching from Chalmette, just southeast of New Orleans, down to Empire, Venice and Pilottown at the mouth of the Mississippi River.


The leaking facilities are owned by Royal Dutch Shell, Chevron, Murphy Oil and Bass Enterprises Production, run by the Bass family of Fort Worth.


And offshore, the Coast Guard said 52 oil and gas production platforms sank in the storm and 58 were damaged.


Another three drilling rigs sank when Katrina rumbled through the Gulf of Mexico and another 16 rigs were damaged.


All together, the Minerals Management Service is reporting that some 900,000 barrels of oil a day and another 3.8 billion cubic feet of natural gas a day remain shut in.


Some of the onshore oil spills appear to be contained, including the 3.4 million gallon spill at Bass Enterprises' tank near Venice. A company spokesman said the levy ring around the facility is half full of crude.


Escaped oil at that site is being pumped into a barge, and cleanup is well under way. The leaks at the Bass facility appear to have come from valves that were torn in the hurricane, not from gashes or ruptures in the tanks.


Other crude spills, such as Murphy Oil's leak in Chalmette, were borne on the water and quickly spread outside the facility's boundaries.


Murphy Oil spokeswoman Mindy West said roughly 890,000 gallons of oil were spilled, but she could not say how much of that escaped into Chalmette neighborhoods.


Chevron lost 966,000 gallons of crude oil from one tank at its Empire terminal.


The location stymied cleanup crews at first because of the lack of electricity, phone service and open roads into the area. Crews arrived by boat and helicopter.


Chevron spokesman Mickey Driver said a response team has contained the spill by creating a floating barricade around it.


"It's boomed, so it can't spread any farther. So that's the good news.

They've now started the process of cleaning that up," he said.


The company did issue a statement saying four of its Gulf projects will be sidelined into 2006 because of storm fallout.


Shell announced its oil and gas production level has returned to 160,000 barrels of oil equivalent a day in the Gulf. In the first half of the year, Shell production averaged 450,000 barrels of oil equivalent a day.


Damage to Mars, Ursa, Mensa, Cognac and West Delta 143 is still being assessed, but ramping up production from several of those facilities does not look like it will happen before year's end.


The fate of deep-water pro- jects like Mars is tied to West Delta 143, a hub facility 90 miles from New Orleans that Shell is continuing to evaluate.


Production from Mars and Ursa ties back to that hub, and the Mensa subsea development ties back to it as well.


Despite the problems from Katrina, crude oil and gasoline prices slipped Friday, as traders' fears of further damage to oil production eased after Tropical Storm Ophelia veered away from Florida.


Light, sweet crude for October delivery fell 41 cents to settle at $64.08 at the New York Mercantile Exchange. Gasoline futures fell more than 7 cents to

$1.9597 a gallon, while heating oil fell more than 3 cents to $1.8965 a gallon. Natural gas fell 8.4 cents to $11.263 per million British thermal units.


In London, Brent crude fell 24 cents to settle at $62.84.


The Associated Press contributed to this story.


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