Gulf Weather System Nearly Certain To Become A Tropical Cyclone

HOUSTON (Dow Jones Newswires), July 27, 2011

U.S. forecasters said a weather system rumbling into the southwestern Gulf of Mexico will almost certainly become a tropical cyclone by Friday afternoon.

The National Hurricane Center said satellite imagery indicates a tropical depression or tropical storm could be forming 90 miles north of Cancun, Mexico. The system, passing through the channel between the Yucatan peninsula and Cuba's western tip, is moving west-northwest at 15 miles per hour, forecasters said.

The Hurricane Center has dispatched a Hurricane Hunter airplane to the area to investigate conditions. The storm has a "near 100%" chance of becoming a tropical cyclone by midday Friday, forecasters said.

The Gulf accounted for about 30% of all U.S. oil production last year, with more than 606 million barrels. Gulf wells also account for about 7.2% of U.S. natural gas production.

Shell, one of the largest producers in the Gulf of Mexico, said it has evacuated some non-essential personnel from its southwest operations due to the threat of a possible storm.

The company said it evacuated about 70 people and that production isn't affected. Evacuation started Tuesday and continued Wednesday, the company said.

"These personnel are not essential to core producing," the company said.

Shell said it began securing operations on the Perdido platform, which it operates in partnership with Chevron and BP. About 200 miles south of Galveston, Texas, in about 8,000 feet of water, the Perdido platform is the world's deepest drilling and production platform. Its peak production is the equivalent of about 100,000 barrels of oil per day.

Shell also said it is securing operations on the Noble Danny Adkins, a deepwater semisub it is leasing from Noble Corp. which is working in the vicinity of the Perdido platform. Noble spokesman John Breed said the company isn't evacuating workers from the rig but is "securing operations" aboard the ship.

Other major Gulf of Mexico producers BP, Chevron and ConocoPhillips said Wednesday they are monitoring the weather and developing plans should it threaten their operations.

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