HOUSTON (ICIS)--Tropical Storm Nate gained strength on Friday afternoon as it continued towards the eastern portion of Louisiana, the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said on Friday, as US Gulf Coast refiners and petrochemical companies prepare for its landfall.
Producers are monitoring the potential path of the storm and making preparations. At least one said it would have to shut down production as a precaution if the storm is upgraded to a Category 1 hurricane.
Some sources are already experiencing loading delays due to the storm.
The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) estimated that approximately 71.1% of oil production in the gulf of Mexico has been shut in as of mid-Friday.
The storm, which is projected to become a hurricane over the weekend, is prompting oil companies to begin shutdown procedures in the Gulf of Mexico.
BP said it has begun removing all remaining offshore personnel and shutting in production at its four operated platforms.
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.
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.