Tags: Oil | Gulf | Storm

Oil Companies Brace for Possible US Gulf Storm

Thursday, 01 Sep 2011 03:28 PM

Major oil and gas producers in the Gulf of Mexico on Thursday shut down offshore platforms and evacuated workers ahead of a storm brewing offshore that could become a tropical storm in coming days.

The Miami-based National Hurricane Center said the low pressure area over the central Gulf and moving northwestward had an 80 percent chance of becoming a tropical cyclone in the next two days.

The storm could move through a heavy concentration of oil and gas platforms off the Louisiana and Texas coasts and potentially crimp supplies from the Gulf, which accounts for about 30 percent of U.S. oil and 12 percent of its gas.

So far only a fraction of Gulf output was shut on Thursday — 5.7 percent of oil supply and 2.4 percent of gas supply, according to the U.S. government.
Those percentages will likely rise significantly in coming days as the storm develops.

The storm — which would be named Lee — could spur torrential rains and coastal flooding from the Florida Panhandle to Texas, NHC Director Bill Read said.

"We've got a huge area of moisture. We've got a developing wind field," Read told reporters in Miami. "We're probably going to see some tremendous rain amounts and the corresponding flooding that goes with that."

Major offshore producers like Royal Dutch Shell, Exxon Mobil Corp and BP Plc began precautionary shut-downs as the storm loomed.
BP Plc and Anadarko Petroleum Corp both shut in production and evacuated Gulf platform workers. Each company operates eight platforms in the basin.

Chevron Corp and Apache Corp said on Thursday they were evacuating workers not essential to production, such as cooks and cleaning staff, but nether reported any production impacts.

The system could become a tropical storm late on Friday or early on Saturday, and reach the south-central coast of Louisiana early on Sunday, said Jerry Paul, senior meteorologist at Weather Insight, a unit of Thomson Reuters.

The storm has the potential to reach hurricane strength on Sunday and could move westward toward Texas, but there's no current clear consensus on weather models, Paul said.

Tropical cyclones become tropical storms when their winds exceed 39 miles per hour (63 km per hour) and become hurricanes when their winds top 74 mph (119 kph).

Lee would be the 12th named storm of the busy 2011 Atlantic hurricane season.

Texas is in the grip of a severe drought and rains from the developing weather system could bring some relief.

On Thursday the system was about 227 miles (365 km) south-southeast of Mississippi Canyon, one of two areas in the Gulf with major concentrations of oil and gas infrastructure, said Aaron Studwell, a meteorologist with Wilkens Weather.

The system was about 250 miles (402 km) south-southeast of the other large concentration in Green Canyon, Studwell said.

Six of the eight platforms BP operates are in those areas, including Thunder Horse, the world's largest, with capacity to produce up to 250,000 barrels per day of oil.

Mississippi Canyon also is home to the Anadarko-operated Independence Hub, with capacity to produce up to billion cubic feet per day of natural gas.
State oil monopoly Pemex said none of its installations in the far west Gulf were affected by the weather system, so no evacuations were planned and the three main oil exporting ports on Mexico's Gulf coast remained open on Thursday morning.

BP is the biggest oil producer in the Gulf, followed by Royal Dutch Shell, Chevron and Anadarko.

Meanwhile, still far east out over the Atlantic, Hurricane Katia, a Category 1 storm, formed late on Wednesday and was churning west with winds of 75 miles per hour (120 km per hour) but posing no immediate threat to land.

At 11.00 a.m. ET (1500 GMT), Katia was located about 1050 miles (1685 kms) east of the northern Leeward Islands.

After Hurricane Irene rampaged up the U.S. East Coast over the weekend, killing at least 40 people, authorities on the U.S. Atlantic seaboard are monitoring Katia to see which path it takes.

The NHC forecast shows Katia could become a major hurricane by the weekend but sees its center missing the Caribbean islands on its northwestward track. Forecasters say it is still too early to predict with certainty that the hurricane poses no threat to the U.S. eastern seaboard.

However, some long-range computer models, which can be off by hundreds of miles (kilometers), show Katia eventually swinging north toward the mid-Atlantic island of Bermuda, away from the U.S. coast.

The Atlantic hurricane season typically brings 11 or 12 named storms. Katia is already the 11th and with half of the season still ahead, it is shaping up to be the unusually busy year that was predicted.

© 2017 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.

 
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Major oil and gas producers in the Gulf of Mexico on Thursday shut down offshore platforms and evacuated workers ahead of a storm brewing offshore that could become a tropical storm in coming days. The Miami-based National Hurricane Center said the low pressure area over...
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2011-28-01
Thursday, 01 Sep 2011 03:28 PM
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