Tropical Storm Alberto Not Expected to Affect GOM Rigs

The first named storm of the 2006 hurricane season, Tropical Storm Alberto, is not expected to hit oil and gas production areas in the Gulf of Mexico.

Forecasters issued a hurricane warning for much of Florida's Gulf Coast as tropical storm Alberto neared the state's northwestern panhandle with winds near 70 mph. A storm will be upgraded to a Category 1 hurricane when it reaches winds of 74 to 95 mph.

Energy companies in the Gulf of Mexico said so far production operations had not been affected by the storm. Anadarko said it had suspended some drilling in the Gulf of Mexico on Monday but expected to return to normal on Tuesday. Devon Energy has evacuated some employees from a platform in the Main Pass area which is located east and south of the Mississippi. BP, Kerr-McGee and Total are also watching the storm carefully but as of yet have not started evacuating offshore workers. The Louisiana Offshore Oil Port is also reporting normal operations.

Forecasters have said the 2006 hurricane season will probably not match 2005's record of 28 named storms, but will likely be more active than average, and the oil industry has been scrambling to harden its infrastructure.