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Equinor planning to shut Gulf production ahead of Cristobal

Highlights

Titan platform could shut output June 5

Mexican ports in Bay of Campeche remain closed

US Gulf producers evacuating some workers

Houston — Equinor is removing workers from its Titan platform in the Gulf of Mexico and is tentatively planning to shut oil production on June 5 ahead of Tropical Depression Cristobal.

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Cristobal was weakened from a tropical storm to a depression as it hovered over southern Mexico, but the US National Hurricane projects it to regain tropical storm strength as soon as June 5 and make landfall in Louisiana on June 7.

The Norwegian energy firm only operates Titan in the Gulf but holds ownership stakes in other facilities. Equinor produces about 120,000 boe/d from the Gulf. Total crude oil production from the US Gulf is nearly 2 million b/d, according to the US Energy Information Administration.

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"We are currently monitoring the path of the storm and have begun the process of removing non-essential personnel from the Titan facility," Equinor spokesman Erik Haaland said. "If the track of the storm continues along its projected path, we expect to shut in production and remove remaining personnel on Friday."

The largest producers in the US Gulf already are taking action to remove non-essential workers or to reduce production volumes temporarily. BP was the first to say it had begun ramping down its output.

"With forecasts indicating that Cristobal will begin moving north across the Gulf of Mexico later this week, BP has begun removing offshore personnel and ramping down production at BP's operated facilities Thunder Horse, Atlantis and Na Kika," BP spokesman Jason Ryan said June 3. "Non-essential personnel are being evacuated from BP's operated Mad Dog platform, but production remains unaffected at this time."

Murphy Oil said June 4 it began evacuating non-essential personnel from the Gulf, but a spokesman declined to comment on specific locations and on any impacts to production volumes.

Talos Energy said it is preparing to evacuate workers.

US AND MEXICO

Other producers are beginning to reduce personnel as well.

"To ensure the safety of our people and protection of the environment, we are removing non-essential personnel from some of our central GOM facilities," Occidental Petroleum said in a June 3 statement. "All of our facilities in the Gulf remain operational at this time."

Likewise, Shell said it has activated its hurricane team and is closely monitoring the storm, but said there has been no impact on production.

Gas liquefaction terminals in Louisiana and Texas are also monitoring Cristobal to determine if they need to implement contingency plans.

The NWS expects Cristobal to make landfall in the US along the central Louisiana coastline and is expected to set a tropical storm watch later from Cameron, Louisiana, eastward.

Some Gulf ports on June 4 began declaring "whiskey" conditions, placing more restrictions on ship access and movements, including the Port of Mobile in Alabama and in Pascagoula, Mississippi, which serves Chevron's 356,440 refinery.

"At our Pascagoula refinery, we are following our hurricane procedures and are paying close attention to the track and forecast of the storm," said Chevron spokesman Braden Reddall via email.

The US Coast Guard set whiskey conditions June 4 for Port Arthur, Texas, which means tropical storm-force winds of 39 mph are expected within 72 hours. The port is currently open to all commercial traffic, and all cargo operations are ongoing. The USGC cautioned that "maritime interests should monitor the storm track closely and prepare for the setting of Port Condition X-RAY," which imposes more restrictions on port traffic.

The UGCG is also expected to set the port of Lake Charles, Louisiana, to whiskey late June 4.

In Mexico, Cristobal forced ports to close in three states in the Bay of Campeche area on June 3, although there has been no major impact on oil, gas or power generation infrastructure.

Ports in the states of Veracruz, Tabasco and Campeche have been closed to all ships and remained closed June 4, said the head of Mexico's civil protection agency, David Leon.

Campeche is one of the most active oil and gas exploration and production regions in the country.