Norton: Gulf natural gas production likely to be down for months - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Norton: Gulf natural gas production likely to be down for months

WASHINGTON (AP) - Heavy damage by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita mean it probably will take months to return offshore natural gas production to normal levels.

Interior Secretary Gale Norton said today that while the production shortfall will mean high prices for natural gas this winter, there should be no widespread shortages of the fuel. The Gulf Coast produces about one-fifth of the natural gas used by industry and to heat homes, especially in the country's midsection.

The Interior Department said only ten percent of the Gulf region's offshore oil production and 28 percent of the gas production has been brought back on line. While most drilling rigs and platforms survived the storm, Norton said repairs clearly will be in the (b) billions of dollars.

Because of strong storm surges, Hurricane Katrina heavily damaged a number of gas processing plants in the New Orleans area. Rita had less of a surge but damaged some onshore facilities in Southeast Texas.

Johnnie Burton is director of the department's Minerals Management Service. He says the two hurricanes apparently did less damage to underwater gas pipelines than Hurricane Ivan last year.

But a clear assessment of pipeline damage hasn't yet been made.

(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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