Weather Watch: Tropical Depression Stalls Over GOM
Shell reported Friday that Tropical Depression #13, which has winds near 35 mph and is stalled over the Gulf of Mexico, is impairing its efforts to evacuate staff from its deepwater operations.
The company has evacuated 550 workers and is using all available resources to safely evacuate employees. The number of personnel evacuated Friday will depend on weather conditions, "and we will only transport personnel if safe to do so", the company said.
Shell has shut in the Auger, Enchilada, Brutus and the Europa subsea field. Shell's non-operated downstream infrastructure partners have proceeded in evacuating their facilities and their actions have resulted in some production shut-ins as well.
The National Hurricane Center (NHC) reports that Tropical Depression No. 13 has maximum sustained winds near 35 mph with higher gusts. NHC forecasts the depression to strengthen during the next 48 hours, with the depression possibly becoming a tropical storm later Friday.
NHC reports winds of tropical storm force are being reported on oil rigs north and east of the storm's center at elevations of a few hundred feet. The center of the cyclone is expected to approach the coast of southern Louisiana during the weekend. A tropical storm warning is in effect from Pascagoula, Miss., to Sabine Pass, Texas.
The storm system's greatest impact will be on production, as producers have moved to shut in oil and gas supply, but the tropical disturbance will not likely cause major damage to oil and gas infrastructure, said Dan Leonard, senior meteorologist at Weather Services International (WSI). The storm is expected to bring 30-40 mph winds to the Gulf production region east of the mouth of the Mississippi River, even after it makes landfall.
The tropical disturbance in the Gulf is unusual as most systems that go into the Gulf of Mexico usually develop in the Atlantic Ocean or the Caribbean Sea, said Leonard. The tropical depression, which will strengthen over the next 24 to 36 hours, will stall along the immediate Louisiana coast Sunday and Monday before moving up through Louisiana and Alabama at mid-week next week. "The system is significant in that you'll have a long duration wind event in one area for so long."
Tropical Storm Katia, which had previously strengthened to a Category 1 hurricane, is not expected to impact the Gulf of Mexico.
Enterprise Products Partners has shut in its Poseidon and Cameron Highway pipelines due to the storm in the Gulf. The two pipelines have combined actual throughput of 250,000 b/d, with a net impact of 100,000 b/d on Enterprise.
The company also has evacuated workers from its nine operated platforms at High Island Block 85, South Marsh Island 205, Garden Banks Block 72, East Cameron Block 373, Mustang Island Block A-103, Viosca Knoll Block 817, West Delta Block 68, High Island A264 and West Cameron Block 167.
The Cameron Highway Pipeline serves multiple refineries in the Texas City and Port Arthur, Texas areas; Poseidon serves refiners in the Houma, La., area. Both pipelines also connect to other pipeline systems onshore.
The company is monitoring the storm to determine when it's safe to resume operations, said company spokesperson Rick Rainey.