Weather Forecast Forces North Sea Oil Worker Evacuation

LONDON, Nov 6, 2007 (Dow Jones Newswires)

Major oil companies operating in the Norwegian sector of the North Sea are bracing themselves for gale force weather in the coming days, with some preparing to evacuate staff.

BP PLC (BP.LN) confirmed it is evacuating 200 staff from the Valhall oil and gas field as a precautionary response to forecasts of severe weather.

"We have started sending people to shore because severe weather is expected Friday morning. It is a precaution to demobilize people on Valhall field," Olav Fjellsa said.

Production from 80,000 barrels of oil a day Valhall would be shut down until the severe weather has passed, Fjellsa added.

ConocoPhillips (COP) said it is also preparing to evacuate five installations located in its North Sea Ekofisk oil fields if weather conditions deteriorate.

"We have not moved anyone yet, but are prepared to move personnel from five installations, if necessary," said the spokesman for ConocoNorge Stig Kvendseth.

Kvendseth wouldn't comment on production from the fields but said that personnel would be moved from all five installations if the weather conditions worsened.

The Ekofisk area is made up of several smaller oil fields which taken together accounted for some 467,000 barrels a day of oil production in November traders said.

Average daily oil production from the Norwegian Continental Shelf amounted to approximately 2.18 million barrels during September this year, preliminary statistics from the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate show.

Meanwhile, Anglo Dutch oil major Royal Dutch Shell (RDSA) said it hasn't evacuated any workers from its North Sea oil fields and doesn't plan to ahead of forecasts for poor weather conditions in the coming days. Spokesman Rainer Winzenreid said production from its North Sea oil fields is continuing as normal.

A spokesman for StatoilHydro (STL.OS) also said it currently has no plans to remove personnel from its oil platforms in the North Sea but it's closely monitoring weather conditions.

"We actually don't have anyone loading at the moment but do have vessels scheduled for tomorrow morning," said Richard Hurding marine team leader at the port of Sullom Voe Northern crude oil loading terminal located in the U.K. Hurding added that if windspeeds rose above 35 knots then loadings wouldn't take place and ships would be kept out of port.

"I think it obviously has bullish implications," said a trader of North Sea crude. "People are being tight-lipped about volumes to be shut, et cetera, but I wouldn't sell ahead of it."

The U.K. Meteorological Office issued gale warnings on its Web site Tuesday covering the entire North Sea area. It also predicted a period of very windy weather over northeastern parts of the U.K. Thursday and Friday.

Copyright (c) 2007 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.

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