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Chevron, Shell, ExxonMobil evacuating Gulf of Mexico platforms ahead of Alberto

Houston — Chevron, Shell, and ExxonMobil have started to evacuate and shut in Gulfof Mexico oil and natural gas platforms in preparation for Subtropical StormAlberto, the companies said Sunday.

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So far there has been very little impact to offshore production, thecompanies said.

Chevron has begun shutting in its Blind Faith and Petronius platformsoffshore Louisiana, a Chevron spokeswoman said Sunday.

"Production from our other Chevron-operated Gulf of Mexico assets remainsat normal levels," Chevron said in a statement.

Shell separately said it has suspended production at the Ram Powellplatform in the Gulf's Viosca Knoll area offshore Louisiana and alsoevacuated crews from the Appomattox hub on the border of the Central andGastern Gulf, which is under development and expected to come onlinebefore the end of 2019.

There were no other impacts to its production or drilling operations inthe Mars Corridor or other areas of the Eastern Gulf, Shell said.

Chevron and Shell also said they are monitoring their eastern Louisianaand Mississippi refineries ahead of the storm.

ExxonMobil said it has evacuated personnel from the Lena platform,offshore Louisiana, and its Mobile Bay operation, offshore Alabama. Thecompany has transitioned control of Mobile Bay to an onshore controlroom.

ExxonMobil is "closely monitoring" Alberto, "determining which of ourfacilities may potentially be in the [storm's] path ... to prepare forsevere weather at offshore and coastal operations in the Gulf of Mexico,"the company said in a statement.

Impacts to production are "minimal," it added.

Offshore Gulf of Mexico oil production averaged 1.7 million b/d in thefirst quarter, according to the US Energy Information Administration,which is forecasting output to climb to 1.78 million b/d in the secondquarter.

Ram Powell production averaged about 6,100 b/d of oil equivalent in 2017,according to a recent press release by Stone Energy which agreed topurchase the Ram Powell hub and related assets from Shell and minoritypartners ExxonMobil and Anadarko Petroleum.

Ram Powell, first discovered in 1985 according to the Offshore Technologywebsite, is sited in water depths of 3,200 feet. Petronius was discoveredin 1995 and Blind Faith in 2001, in water depths of about 1,800 feet and7,000 feet respectively.

In an advisory issued at 2 p.m. EDT, the US National Hurricane Centersaid the center of Alberto was about 140 miles south of Apalachicola, Floridaand 135 miles west of Tampa, with maximum sustained winds of 50 mph.

On the forecast track, the center of Alberto will cross the eastern andnorthern Gulf of Mexico Sunday and make landfall in the Florida PanhandleMonday morning, before moving north into Alabama Monday night.

Heavy rainfall and tropical storm conditions will likely reach thenorthern Gulf Coast well before the arrival of the center of Alberto.

The National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration's Climate PredictionCenter is forecasting a 75% chance that the 2018 Atlantic hurricaneseason will be near or above normal.Forecasters predict a 35% chance ofan above-normal season, a 40% chance of a near-normal season, and a 25% chanceof a below-normal season for the upcoming hurricane activity period, whichextends from June 1 to November 30, NOAA said in a statement Wednesday.

For the upcoming hurricane season, NOAA's forecasters predict a 70%likelihood of 10 to 16 named storms (winds of 39 mph or higher), of whichfive to nine could become hurricanes (winds of 74 mph or higher), includingone to four major hurricanes (category 3, 4 or 5; with winds of 111 mph orhigher).

An average hurricane season produces 12 named storms, of which six becomehurricanes, including three major hurricanes.

The possibility of a weak El Nino developing, along with near-average seasurface temperatures across the tropical Atlantic Ocean and CaribbeanSea, are two of the factors driving this outlook, NOAA said.

-- Jim Magill, Starr Spencer, with Janet McGurty in New York,

-- Edited by Jeff Mower,