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US Gulf producers start pre-storm evacuations: Update 2

5 Oct 2017, 10.22 pm GMT

US Gulf producers start pre-storm evacuations: Update 2

Adds details on BP removing all Gulf offshore personnel.

Houston, 5 October (Argus) — Oil and gas producers in the US Gulf of Mexico are starting to shut facilities or secure them and evacuate staff in preparation for Tropical Storm Nate.

The storm is forecast to strengthen to near Hurricane intensity when it approaches the Yucatan Peninsula late tomorrow, bringing direct impacts from wind, storm surge, and heavy rainfall, according to the US National Hurricane Center. But it is expected to become a Hurricane as it travels over the gulf on 7 October. After making landfall in the US, it is expected to weaken again to a tropical storm by 8 October.

BP has begun removing all of its offshore Gulf of Mexico personnel and is shutting in production at four of its operated platforms. That includes Thunder Horse, its largest drilling platform in the US Gulf, about 150 miles southeast of New Orleans and capable of producing 250,000 b/d of crude oil and 200mn cf/d (2.1bn m3/yr) of gas. The major shut the facility last month following a power outage.

BP will also close down Na Kika, a hub for about eight subsea fields about 140 miles south of New Orleans, designed to produce 130,000 b/d of crude and 550mn cf/d of natural gas.

"Once this process is complete, BP will continue to monitor offshore conditions to determine when conditions are safe to redeploy personnel and resume operations," it said.

Similarly, Chevron has begun to shut in production at its facilities, removing all personnel. This includes Blind Faith, Genesis, Jack/St Malo, Petronius and Tahiti. It did not share current output rates for the facilities, but its total US Gulf of Mexico output in 2016 averaged 158,000 b/d of oil and 183mn cf/d of natural gas.

As of 2pm ET today, a total of six offshore US Gulf of Mexico oil and gas production platforms have been evacuated, with 254,607 b/d of oil output shut in, representing 15pc of the total from the Gulf region, the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) said. Over 6pc of the region's gas production has been shut in, at about 206.7mn cf/d, it said.

Fellow major Shell is shutting in production from some of its subsea fields and is suspending some drilling activity in the region as it continues to secure facilities in preparation for the weather system. It is also minimizing the number of people working at its eastern Gulf of Mexico facilities. It did not give details on the facilities.

ExxonMobil is evacuating all personnel from its Lena platform, which is in the process of being decommissioned.

"We are closely monitoring weather updates, determining which of our facilities may potentially be in the path of the storm and preparing those structures," ExxonMobil says.

Anadarko has removed all staff and shut in production at its Horn Mountain facility, and plans to remove all personnel and shut in the Marlin platform tomorrow. It is also removing all non-essential personnel from its Constitution, Holstein, Lucius and Marco Polo platforms today. The company's total US Gulf output was 140,000 boe/d in the second quarter.

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