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Noble Rig Not Evacuated in Time for Hurricane Ida’s Arrival

Last night, Hurricane Ida made landfall on the 16th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. It was a Category 4 hurricane with 150 mph winds, producing potentially 16 inches of rainfall in southeast Louisiana. It is a small comfort that people had a few days warning that Ida was coming, but regardless, it allowed cities in Ida’s path to evacuate, prepare, and protect themselves ahead of time.

Those few days’ warning also allowed more than 14 drilling rigs and 1,000 production rigs in the Gulf time to evacuate. In the days leading up to Ida’s arrival, oil companies halted 1.74 million barrels of daily output to evacuate personnel from drilling and production platforms—with a notable exception.

The Globetrotter II, a drillship owned by Noble Corporation and leased by Shell, did not.

In a statement from Noble Corporation, the drillship “maintained stability” through Ida’s passing, operating under its own power for the entirety of its time in the storm. However, there were rumors of damage to the rig that resulted in the loss of lifeboats, damage to the low marine riser package (a kind of blowout preventer), and the loss of a dry dock. There were also rumors that while Noble did not suffer any fatalities, that some crew members were injured in the hurricane.

Unclear Why the Drillship Was in Ida’s Path

Noble’s statement did not shed light on why the drillship was in Ida’s path at all. The company had the same access to weather forecasting as any other company or organization at that point, so there seems to be no reason that Noble would be fully staffed as a Category 4 hurricane descended on the Gulf. However, there were rumors that the drillship was unable to disconnect from its riser in time, which would force it to stay in place.

There’s no sure answer as to why the riser didn’t disconnect—it could be mechanical defect, poor resource management, or conditions outside the company’s control. But regardless, the bottom line is that Shell and Noble are both responsible for the safety of the Globetrotter II crew. If any of the crew members were injured as a result of being in Hurricane Ida’s path, then those companies need to be made responsible for any medical costs or damages that result. It’s the right thing to do, regardless of the circumstances.

Arnold & Itkin will be following stories regarding the impact of Hurricane Ida on land and offshore. We sincerely hope the damage and harm caused by Ida will be minimal.

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