Houston — US Gulf of Mexico offshore oil and gas producers continued shutting in wells and evacuating crews on Oct. 6 as Hurricane Delta strengthened into a major Category 4 hurricane en route to a projected Louisiana landfall this weekend.
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Four days before the expected landfall, already almost 30% of the US Gulf's oil output was offline with much more expected to be shut down in the days ahead.
As of Oct. 6, 540,495 b/d of oil output, and 232.71 Mmcf/d of natural gas output, had been shut in, roughly 29.22% and 8.59% of US Gulf of Mexico output, according to the US Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement.
The rapidly strengthening storm is expected to take the bulk of US Gulf's oil and gas production offline this week ahead of a likely landfall on Oct. 10 when Gulf Coast refining operations in Louisiana could be impacted as well. A bevy of tropical storms and hurricanes have disrupted oil and gas operations in the Gulf this year for what could end up as the most active Atlantic storm season in recorded history, potentially surpassing the record-setting season in 2005.
The offshore Gulf of Mexico is home to roughly 1.9 million b/d of crude production capacity, according to the US Energy Information Administration.
Shell said it is evacuating some staff from all of its Gulf facilities.
"As a precautionary measure, Shell is preparing to shut down production at several assets and has begun evacuating non-essential personnel from all nine of its assets in the Gulf of Mexico," Shell said in an Oct. 6 statement. "All drilling rigs are securing operations."
Norway's Equinor is in the process of evacuating crews from its Titan platform, company spokesman Erik Haaland said in an email Oct. 6.
"We expect that Titan will be fully evacuated and shut down by Tuesday," Haaland said.
Chevron has begun evacuating crews and shutting in production, the major said late in an Oct. 5 bulletin.
BP said Oct. 5 it had begun securing offshore facilities and evacuating non-essential crews from its four offshore platforms: Thunder Horse, Atlantis, Mad Dog and Na Kika.
BHP was doing likewise at its operated Shenzi and Neptune platforms, company spokeswoman Judy Dane said, adding BHP plans to be fully evacuated and the platforms shut-in by Oct. 7.
Occidental Petroleum said it is closely tracking the storm.
"All of our facilities have plans to prepare for weather-related events and those in the storm's potential path are implementing those procedures," Oxy said in a statement.
Likewise, Murphy Oil is evacuating non-essential personnel from certain facilities.
"We continue to monitor the storm, and will take additional action if and when necessary," Murphy said.
W&T Offshore summarized the pre-Delta devastation. "Production across the Gulf of Mexico has been significantly impacted by an extraordinary six named storms thus far in this hurricane season," the company said Oct. 5, citing Tropical Storm Cristobal and hurricanes Hanna, Marco, Laura, Sally and Beta. W&T estimates nearly two-thirds of its offshore oil volumes were offline in the third quarter from storms and resulting damage.
W&T spokesman Al Petrie said Oct. 6 that the company is evacuating personnel and preparing to shut in production in advance of Delta.
"We have assumed there will be downtime in the fourth quarter from additional storms, but we don't have any additional details at this time in regards to which fields," he added.
Onshore, about 4.28 million b/d of operating US refinery capacity was in the projected path of the storm Oct. 6. Area refiners have yet to report any shutdowns, but there was still plenty of time ahead of the storm's landfall to do so if necessary.
"They'll probably wait to make that call mid-to-late week," said one source familiar with operations at ExxonMobil's 517,700 b/d Baton Rouge, Louisiana, refinery.
"We are closely monitoring Hurricane Delta," said ExxonMobil spokesman Todd Spitler, declining further comment.
Roughly 1 million b/d of refining capacity in Louisiana remains offline from previous hurricanes, including the Phillips 65 and Citgo Petroleum refineries near Lake Charles, as well as the Phillips 66 Belle Chasse refinery, which is undergoing maintenance under an expedited timeline.
Hurricane season extends through the end of November.
Hurricane Delta has rapidly strengthened into a dangerous Category 4 hurricane, with maximum sustained winds of 130 mph, the National Hurricane Center reported.
The center warned that Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula will face an "extremely dangerous storm surge" on Oct. 6 and then head to the US Gulf Coast.
"There is an increasing likelihood of life-threatening storm surge and dangerous hurricane-force winds, especially along the coasts of Louisiana and Mississippi, beginning on Friday (Oct. 9)," the NHC said.
NHC's track has Delta making landfall very early Oct. 10 along the central-to-eastern Louisiana coast as a weakened, but still strong Category 2 hurricane.
|Refineries possibly affected by Hurricane Delta|
|Shell Chemical||Saraland, AL||87,500||Operating|
|Hunt Southland||Sandersville, MS||11,000||Operating|
|Alon||Krotz Springs, LA||80,000||Operating|
|ExxonMobil||Baton Rouge, LA||517,700||Operating|
|Placid Refining||Port Allen, LA||75,000||Operating|
|Phillips 66||Belle Chasse, LA||255,600||Shut by Sally- planned work through Nov.|
|Shell Oil||Convent, LA||211,146||Operating|
|Shell Oil||Norco, LA||227,400||Operating|
|CITGO||Lake Charles, LA||418,000||Shut by Laura- back mid-to-late October|
|Phillips 66||Westlake, LA||260,000||Shut by Laura- back early December|
|Calcasieu Refining||Calcasieu, LA||135,500||Shut Aug.1 for poor economics|
|Motiva||Port Arthur, Texas||630,000||Operating|
|Valero||Port Arthur, Texas||335,000||Operating|
|Total||Port Arthur, Texas||225,500||Operating|