Evacuations start at Gulf platforms on Gustav

29 August 2008 19:57  [Source: ICIS news]

Evacuations start at Gulf platforms HOUSTON (ICIS news)--Companies began evacuating offshore platforms in the Gulf of Mexico as Tropical Storm Gustav headed towards the region, a government agency said on Friday.

So far, two production platforms have been evacuated out of the 717 manned platforms in the Gulf, according to the Minerals Management Service (MMS). In addition, one rig has been evacuated out of the 121 that operate in the Gulf.

The evacuations have had no noticeable effect on crude oil and natural gas production, according to the MMS.

However, companies plan to continue evacuating personnel from their offshore facilities.

US oil and natural gas production is concentrated in the Gulf, making it vulnerable to supply disruptions caused by tropical weather.

West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude was last seen trading at $116.05/bbl, up 46 cents from Thursday's close.

Shell has already announced evacuation plans for the weekend.

Offshore driller Transocean said it evacuated about 400 workers from its 11 rigs working in the Gulf of Mexico. It plans to move eight of the rigs out of the path of the storm.

Three conventionally moored semis will stay on location and be completely evacuated, Transocean said.

In other news, a US chemicals producer said it was shutting down its Port Neches plant in Texas ahead of Gustav.

The producer, which makes propylene oxide (PO), propylene glycol (PG) ethylene oxide (EO) and ethylene glycol (EG), said it planned to complete shutdown procedures at the plant at least 24 hours ahead of Gustav's landfall. Shutdown procedures require at least 48 hours, the source said.

A US olefins producer said it had moved rail and truck supply away from its Taft plant in Louisiana and was planning to have plant personnel evacuated by 12:00 Houston time on Saturday. The producer was closely monitoring the storm before making any other decisions regarding shutdowns and evacuations.

Also, the Louisiana Offshore Oil Port (LOOP) plans to stop oil tanker offloading on Saturday, the result of shipping dispruptions caused by the storm, said Barb Hestermann, spokeswoman.

The Louisiana Offshore Oil Port is the nation's only deepwater oil port for super tankers.

Some 50% of the nation's refining capacity can be supplied by LOOP which moves approximately 12% of the nation's annual crude oil imports.

By Saturday at about 12:00 Houston time (17:00 GMT), the port should have offloaded the last of the tankers, Hestermann said. Since the port will have nothing else to offload, workers will leave the facility.

While the port will not offload tankers, it will continue to supply refineries with oil from its onshore storage site, Hestermann said.

Gustav has strengthened rapidly since it left Jamaica, according to the National Hurricane Center.

As of 13:00 Houston time (18:00 GMT), Gustav had maximum wind speeds of nearly 70 miles/hour, just shy of hurricane strength, the centre said.

Meteorologists expect Gustav to become a hurricane at any time. It could become a major hurricane by Saturday.

Major hurricanes have wind speeds of at least 111 miles/hour. Katrina and Rita were both major hurricanes when they hit the Gulf coast three years ago.

Gustav is expected to hit Louisiana by Tuesday.

As of 13:00 Houston time, Gustav was 125 miles east-southeast of Grand Cayman.

(Additional reporting by Brian Balboa, Gene Lockard and Steven McGinn)

For more on PG, PO, EO and EG, visit ICIS chemical intelligence
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By: Al Greenwood
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