26 June 2010 18:23 [Source: ICIS news]
HOUSTON (ICIS news)--Tropical Storm Alex formed on Saturday near Belize, with an expected path that could threaten oil production in the Gulf of Mexico, meteorologists said.
Oil began leaking from the bottom of the Gulf after a 20 April explosion sank the BP-operated Deepwater Horizon offshore rig. The well could be leaking 60,000 bbl/day.
BP would stop siphoning oil from the well if clean-up operations were threatened by gale-force winds, which have speeds of 39-54 miles/hour (63-87 km/hour), said Thad Allen, Coast Guard admiral. A tropical storm has wind speeds of 39-73 miles/hour.
While Alex was too far to threaten BP's clean-up efforts, the storm could still disrupt oil production in the Gulf of Mexico. Its forecast path placed it near Veracruz, Coatzacoalcos and Altamira, the ports that serve the Mexican chemical industry.
Alex could pass over the Yucatan peninsula in Mexico during the weekend before entering the Gulf, according to the National Hurricane Center. By Wednesday, the storm could strengthen into a hurricane, with wind speeds of at least 74 miles/hour.
Hurricane Dean followed a similar path in 2007, disrupting oil production.
Alex was the first tropical storm to form in the Atlantic basin this year.
Meteorologists expect a busy storm season this year, with some predicting up to 10 hurricanes.
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