(Updates with latest Gulf evacuations starting in 13th paragraph. Run BMAP 95086 <GO> to locate energy platforms in the Gulf of Mexico.)
Sept. 1 (Bloomberg) -- A low-pressure system in the Gulf of Mexico that will probably strengthen into a storm within two days is shutting down some oil and gas output, while Katia weakened to a tropical storm in the Atlantic.
The Gulf system has an 80 percent chance of becoming a tropical depression or storm in the next 48 hours as it moves northwestward, the National Hurricane Center said in an advisory at 2 p.m. Eastern time.
“Parts of the Gulf of Mexico’s offshore oil- and gas- producing areas could experience gales for four or five days,” said Joe Bastardi, chief meteorologist for New York-based WeatherBell Analytics. He said the system “will be very slow to move before finally making up its mind to move out of the area” and its path is still unknown.
BP Plc, Exxon Mobil Corp., Anadarko Petroleum Corp. and Noble Corp. began evacuations from Gulf rigs and platforms. The system is over the central Gulf and stretches from Louisiana to the Florida Panhandle.
The storm has shut 5.7 percent of Gulf oil production and 2.4 percent of the natural gas output, according to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement. The Gulf is home to 27 percent of U.S. oil output and 6.5 percent of the country’s natural gas production.
Possible Category 3
Meteorologists led by Matt Rogers at Commodity Weather Group in Bethesda, Maryland, said in a note to clients today that the system has a 30 percent chance of becoming a Category 3 major hurricane.
CWG said there are still “significant uncertainties” about the disturbance’s path and how it will interact with land and other weather systems. MDA EarthSat Weather put the odds of a major storm at 10 percent.
At AccuWeather Inc. in State College, Pennsylvania, the forecast called for “an extensive, slow-moving system, capable of affecting the same area for days with downpours, stormy seas and rough surf conditions,” Alex Sosnowski, expert senior meteorologist, said on the company’s website. Ten to 20 inches (25 to 51 centimeters) of rain may fall on the north-central coast, he said.
The National Weather Service issued a flash-flood watch for New Orleans through the weekend. The hurricane center said the system is already producing thunderstorms and gusty winds in the region.
BP said it will remove all workers from Gulf platforms by tomorrow. Yesterday the company began removing more than 500 non-essential workers from some platforms in the Southern Green Canyon area, according to a message on the company’s hurricane hot line.
Diamond Offshore is evacuating the jack-up rig Ocean Titan and non-essential staff from two other Gulf rigs “out of an abundance of caution,” according to Les Van Dyke, director of investor relations for the company. About 200 people will be evacuated today and tomorrow, he said.
Anadarko, based in The Woodlands, Texas, said it is shutting all eight of its Gulf facilities, and The Hague-based Royal Dutch Shell Plc is evacuating workers from most of its Gulf operations and shutting in some production.
Exxon Mobil, based in Irving, Texas, said it was evacuating 140 workers from Gulf platforms and shutting in 11,000 barrels per day of liquids production, as well as 60 million cubic feet of natural gas production. Switzerland-based Noble Corp. was evacuating about 300 workers from three of five active rigs in the Gulf.
ConocoPhillips, based in Houston, evacuated all workers from the Magnolia platform in the Gulf of Mexico and shut in production, which averaged 5,000 barrels of oil equivalent a day last year.
Enbridge Inc.’s Garden Banks Gas Pipeline LLC and Stingray Pipeline Co. removed workers from natural gas platforms ahead of the storm. El Paso Corp.’s Southern Natural Gas evacuated workers from two supply points, reducing gas production by about 43 million cubic feet a day.
Bastardi compared the Gulf disturbance to 1985’s Hurricane Juan, which spent five days over the water. Juan caused $1.5 billion in damage in Louisiana, the hurricane center said.
The Terrebonne and South Lafourche levee districts in Louisiana have closed floodgates ahead of the storm, state Governor Bobby Jindal said in an e-mailed statement. The state Department of Wildlife and Fisheries is securing equipment and preparing response teams, he said.
In the Atlantic, Hurricane Katia weakened to a tropical storm about 930 miles (1,495 kilometers) east of the northern Leeward Islands, the NHC said in an advisory at about 4:30 p.m. New York time. The storm’s maximum sustained winds fell to 70 miles per hour, down from 75 mph earlier today, the center said.
“Some re-strengthening is forecast during the next 48 hours,” the center said. “Swells generated by Katia will be affecting the Lesser Antilles by late Friday.”
Katia was a Category 1 storm on the five-step Saffir- Simpson scale. It is the 11th named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season that runs from June through November. The hurricane center’s forecast path shows Katia north of Puerto Rico, east of the Bahamas and south of Bermuda by Sept. 6.
A shift westward for Katia, currently forecast to turn north and out to sea eventually, may bring it to land in eastern Canada, AccuWeather said. Canada’s Atlantic region, a major gasoline supplier for the Northeast, exported 469,704 cubic meters (2.96 million barrels) of the fuel in May.
The center is also monitoring a low-pressure system 360 miles north of Bermuda. The system will begin moving northeastward at 10 to 15 mph later today and has a 50 percent chance of becoming a tropical cyclone in the next 48 hours.
--With assistance from Aaron Clark, Christine Buurma and Paul Burkhardt in New York, Margot Habiby in Dallas, Lynn Doan in San Francisco, Sherry Su in London, Brian K. Sullivan in Boston and Randall Hackley in Zurich. Editor: Richard Stubbe, David Marino
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