BP To Evacuate 800 From Gulf of Mexico Ops Saturday

HOUSTON Aug 26, 2006 (Dow Jones Newswires)

BP PLC (BP) is evacuating some non-essential staff from the Gulf of Mexico due to Tropical Storm Ernesto, but the company has not suspended any production due to the storm threat, a company spokesman said Saturday.

The evacuated workers are non-essential staff, mostly associated with long-term projects that have not begun producing, said BP spokesman Hugh DePland. By the end of Saturday, the U.K. oil giant will have evacuated 800 of its 2,400 workers from the Gulf, he said.

"These are folks that are on projects that have long lead times," DePland said, adding that production has not been impacted.

"At this point, we're just continuing to watch the storm," DePland said.

Meanwhile, Chevron Corp. (CVX), Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM) and Royal Dutch Shell PLC (RDSB), three other leading Gulf of Mexico producers, have not initiated evacuations, company officials said.

"We are not evacuating anyone at this time," Chevron spokesman Matt Carmichael said in an e-mail, adding that the company has no specific timing on any evacuations. "We are watching Ernesto very carefully (and) will begin evacuations if and when (we) deem prudent to do so."

On Friday night, Shell released a statement saying it wasn't evacuating staff, but that "plans are in place to begin evacuating personnel non-essential to drilling or producing operations, if warranted." An ExxonMobil spokesman said Saturday that the company was watching Ernesto, but hadn't evacuated staff or suspended production.

Tropical Storm Ernesto was located about 375 miles East-Southeast of Jamaica and moving West-Northwest at 13 miles per hour, the National Hurricane Center said in an update at 5 pm Atlantic Standard Time. The storm had maximum sustained winds near 60 miles per hour.

"Some additional strengthening is forecast during the next 24 hours," the NHC said. "And Ernesto could be near hurricane strength as it approaches Jamaica and Western Haiti on Sunday."

An NHC projection map released Saturday afternoon showed Ernesto possibly creeping near Florida Tuesday morning, and edging into the oil-rich Gulf of Mexico after that.

Copyright (c) 2006 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.

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