Houston — Top producers in the deepwater Gulf of Mexico said they have already started evacuating oil and gas platforms and shutting-in some production ahead of Tropical Storm Zeta, which is expected to strengthen into a hurricane and likely trigger more oil and gas volumes to come offline.
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Nearly 16% of oil volumes from the US Gulf already are shut in -- 293,656 b/d turned off -- and about 6% of natural gas output -- 162.57 MMcf/d -- is offline, according to the US Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement on Oct. 26. Only 10 platforms have been evacuated thus far, BSEE said, with more underway.
BP and Equinor confirmed they are shutting-in production on their platforms, while Chevron, BHP and others said they are evacuating some personnel and considering decisions on production reductions.
"With forecasts indicating the storm will move across the Central Gulf of Mexico in the next few days, BP has begun evacuating personnel from its platforms and assets and is beginning to shut-in production," BP said Oct. 26 in a statement. "The four mobile offshore drilling units contracted to BP are in the process of securing their wells to safely evade the storms."
BP's four operated platforms are Atlantis, Mad Dog, Na Kika and Thunder Horse.
Equinor said it is evacuating and shutting-in its Titan platform.
Likewise, Shell said it is temporarily ceasing some offshore drilling.
"As a precautionary measure, we will be limiting the movement of non-essential personnel to offshore assets," Shell spokeswoman Cindy Babski said in a statement. "We have safely paused some of our drilling operations, and there are currently no impacts to our production."
Oil and gas volumes in the US Gulf will yet again be disrupted from a record-setting 2020 Atlantic hurricane season. Zeta is the 27th named storm of the year, tying the 2005 record with more than a month remaining in the season.
Earlier in October, Hurricane Delta forced more than 90% of the US Gulf's nearly 1.9 million b/d of crude production to be shut in.
Zeta is expected to strengthen into a hurricane later on Oct. 26 and make an initial landfall near Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula before entering the central Gulf and making a second landfall as early as Oct. 28 near southeastern Louisiana, according to the National Hurricane Center.
"In preparation for the storm, we have begun evacuating all non-essential personnel from our Chevron-operated Gulf of Mexico facilities," Chevron said in a statement.
"BHP is in the process of evacuating non-essential personnel from Shenzi and Neptune, with flights planned for today and tomorrow," said BHP spokeswoman Judy Dane in an email reply. "We continue to monitor TS Zeta and will make further evacuation/shut-in decisions based on forecast information later today."
Named storms Delta, Beta, Sally, Marco, Laura, Hanna and Cristobal have all disrupted activities in the Gulf from June through October.
Several of the storms have also impacted refining activities, as well as exports of both LNG and crude oil. Citgo Petroleum's Lake Charles Refinery in Louisiana has been offline since it sustained damages from Hurricane Laura in August, although the refinery is expected to come back online in about a week or so.