Weather Watch: Producers Evacuate Workers as Storm Threatens Gulf of Mexico

Oil and gas exploration and production companies have begun evacuating workers from Gulf of Mexico operations and shutting in production due to the storm system that could turn into the 12th tropical cyclone of this year's hurricane season.

Shell reported it was moving forward with a plan to reduce the number of employees from most of its operations, but weather conditions are already impairing staff movement. "We are using all available resources to safely evacuate employees," said Shell. The number of evacuated personnel will depend on weather condition; personnel will only be moved if safe to do so.

Shell has taken steps to begin shutting in production, focusing on subsea fields that require specific treatments to ensure production can be restored after the storm passes. "The impacts are minimal at this point and we are monitoring Shell non-operated downstream infrastructure for further impacts to our production that may occur," Shell said.

ExxonMobil is evacuating approximately 140 employees and contractors from its Gulf Coast offshore platforms expected to be in the path of the storm. Gross production of approximately 11,000 b/d of liquids and 60 MMcf/d of natural gas has been shut in. "Our primary focus continues to be the safety of our workforce," ExxonMobil said.

BP has begun evacuations of all personnel from its operated assets in the Gulf of Mexico. On Wednesday, 500 non-essential workers had been evacuated. That activity will continue through Thursday and potentially into Friday.

BP operated assets included in this evacuation include Mad Dog, Holstein, Atlantis, Nakika, Pampano, and Thunder Horse. "We will continue monitoring weather conditions and will re-staff these facilities when it is deemed safe to do so," a BP spokesperson said.

Anadarko Petroleum Corp. reported Thursday that it had removed approximately 100 employees from and was shutting in production at all eight of its operated Gulf facilities, including Independence Hub, Constitution, Marco Polo, Red Hawk, Nansen, Boomvang, Gunnison and Neptune. "We will continue to monitor the path of the weather in the Gulf and will return our workers and restore production only when it is safe to do so," the company said in a statement.

Apache Corp. has begun moving some non-essential employees out of the Gulf ahead of the hurricane, a company spokesperson said. Chevron is closely monitoring the tropical disturbance in the Gulf of Mexico. Non-essential personnel are being evacuated and no production has been affected. 

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE) reported that personnel have been evacuated from nine production platforms as of 11:30 a.m. CDT Thursday, equivalent to 1.6 percent of the 617 manned platforms in the Gulf. None of the 62 rigs currently operating in the Gulf have been evacuated.

BOEMRE estimated that approximately 5.7 percent of current Gulf oil production, or 79,989 b/d, has been shut in, and approximately 2.4 percent of Gulf natural gas production, or 127 MMcf/d, has been shut in. BOEMRE's survey information is based on seven companies' reports as of 11:30 a.m. CDT Thursday.

The National Hurricane Center (NHC) is monitoring a broad area of low pressure in the central Gulf of Mexico 200 miles south of the Louisiana coast that is producing a large area of cloudiness, thunderstorms and gusty winds over the eastern and central Gulf. NHC forecasts upper-level winds to become more conducive for development, and the system could become a tropical depression during the next day or so.

NHC said the system has an 80 percent chance of becoming a tropical cyclone, which would be named Lee, according to the NHC website, as it moves slowly to the northwest. A National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration hurricane hunter aircraft is scheduled to investigate the area later this afternoon. "Interests along the entire northern Gulf of Mexico coast should monitor the storm's progress," NHC said.

NHC also is tracking Tropical Storm Katia, which had previously been upgraded to a Category 1 hurricane, but has weakened, with winds decreasing close to 70 mph. However, NHC reported that the storm is expected to strengthen again.


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