HOUSTON (ICIS)--Tropical Storm Nate is strengthening over the northwest Caribbean Sea, the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said on Friday, prompting oil companies to begin shutting down production in the US Gulf Coast.
“Production is being safely shut in, drilling operations have been suspended and all personnel are returning to shore,” Shell said.
BP said on Thursday it has begun removing all remaining offshore personnel and shutting in production at its four operated platforms.
As of Thursday, six production platforms had personnel evacuated, making up approximately 0.81% of the 737 manned platforms in the Gulf of Mexico, based on Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) information. The evacuations have shut in approximately 254,607 bbl/day of oil production, and 206.71 million cubic feet (mcf)/day of natural gas production.
Nate is moving toward the north-northwest near 21 miles/hour (33 km/hour) near the Caribbean Sea, NOAA said.
The storm will reach the southern Gulf of Mexico by Friday night before approaching the northern US Gulf Coast on Saturday.
Nate is expected to turn north and northeast between Saturday night and Sunday, when it will also likely strengthen into a hurricane, NOAA said.
As of 10:00 Houston time (16:00 GMT), maximum sustained winds are near 50 miles/hour with higher gusts. To be classified at hurricane-strength, sustained winds need to reach 74 miles/hour.
The 2017 Atlantic hurricane season has had a total of 15 tropical depressions, 14 storms and eight hurricanes - five of which have been major hurricanes. One of them, Harvey, caused substantial disruptions to petrochemical production and logistics on the US Gulf Coast, from which the region is still recovering.
The Atlantic hurricane season began on 1 June and will end on 30 November.