HOUSTON (ICIS)--Hurricane Delta has strengthened to a powerful category 4 storm, threatening oil and gas production in the US Gulf and petrochemical production along the northern US Gulf Coast.
Meteorologists with the National Hurricane Center (NHC) said on Tuesday that Delta is likely to bring storm surge and hurricane-force winds to the coasts of Louisiana and Mississippi beginning on Friday.
Delta has maximum sustained winds of 145 miles/hour (230 km/hour) and is about 200 miles east-southeast of Cozumel, Mexico.
The storm is on track to make landfall in Louisiana by Saturday, as shown in the following map.
Source: National Hurricane Center
Louisiana is home to many petrochemical plants and refineries. The storm could cause some of these plants to shut down as a precaution. They could remain offline if strong winds cause power outages.
Oil and gas production in the US Gulf is likely to be interrupted by the storm, where offshore oil wells account for 17% of the nation's crude production, according to the Energy Information Administration (EIA).
US Gulf of Mexico operators continued evacuating personnel and began shutting in production Tuesday.
As of mid-day, producers had shut in 540,495 bbl/day, 29.22% of total Gulf oil output, the US Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) reported.
Producers had shut in 232.71 million cubic feet (mcf)/day of gas, 8.59% of total gas output.
Personnel were still evacuated from 56 production platforms, more than 8% of the total manned platforms operating in the Gulf.
The New Orleans Flood Protection Authority plans to start closing flood gates on Wednesday, which will disrupt rail shipments travelling to the city, the train company Norfolk Southern said.
The Louisiana Offshore Oil Port (LOOP) said it is closely monitoring Hurricane Delta while operations continue at its Clovelly Hub.
The LOOP is an offshore oil terminal that is 20 miles from the coast. It is the only US port capable of fully loading a very large crude carrier (VLCC).
Lake Charles, Louisiana, which took a recent hit from Hurricane Laura, is in the western part of the state and is not in the projected path of Delta at present. However, the latest update from the NHC shows the projected path has tilted slightly to the west.
If Delta makes landfall on the US Gulf Coast, it would be the fifth named storm to make landfall this season.
Hurricane season ruins through the end of November.
Additional reporting by Al Greenwood and John Donnelly
Click here to view the US Gulf storms – impacts on chemicals topic page.
Thumbnail image shows a map of the storm. Source: National Hurricane Center