Oil and gas operators start evacuations as Tropical Depression Five is expected to strengthen into Tropical Storm Danielle

By Phaedra Friend Troy

Expected to strengthen into Tropical Storm Danielle before making landfall, Tropical Depression Five is currently barreling across the Gulf of Mexico, potentially shutting-in oil and gas production and forcing offshore evacuations.

Tropical Depression Five is presently located west of Florida about 170 miles east-southeast of the mouth of the Mississippi River.

With maximum winds measuring 30 miles per hour, the storm is traveling toward the northwest at a rate of 10 miles per hour. ImpactWeather reported that the storm’s organization diminished overnight, decreasing the storm’s chance of significant strengthening before landfall.

Currently, there is little chance of Tropical Depression Five becoming a hurricane, although strengthening into a tropical storm is likely.

Expected to make landfall in New Orleans at the mouth of the Mississippi River in the late hours of Thursday, August 12, Tropical Depression Five is forecast to strengthen into Tropical Storm Danielle with winds measuring 40 miles per hour before landfall.

A tropical storm warning is in affect along the Louisiana coast, including New Orleans and along Lake Pontchartrain. Tropical Depression Five is expected to bring heavy rains, strong winds and a 4-foot storm surge.

Offshore Oil and Gas Operators Begin Safety Measures

Oil and gas operators are monitoring the storm closely, beginning evacuations of offshore personnel and potentially shutting-in production at facilities in the path of the storm.

Anadarko (NYSE:APC) reported that it has evacuated nonessential personnel from its deepwater Independence Hub production facility and Neptune spar facility in the Eastern Gulf of Mexico.

“We are continuing to monitor the path of the weather and remain prepared to immediately remove all personnel from these facilities and shut in production, if necessary, to protect our personnel and the environment,” the company said.

Reuters reported that operators BP (NYSE:BP) and Eni (NYSE:E), as well as offshore pipeline company Enbridge (NYSE:EEP), are also evacuating non-essential personnel in the path of the storm.

Additionally, BP has stopped relief well drilling at the Macondo oil spill site, placing a storm packer in the well as a precautionary measure.

On the horizon, a low pressure system in the Atlantic has a 70 percent chance of strengthening into a tropical cyclone in the next 48 hours, reported the National Hurricane Center.

With the start of August, the 2010 Atlantic hurricane season is expected to ramp up significantly. ImpactWeather meteorologist and hurricane expert Chris Hebert advised that historically 90 to 95 percent of the hurricanes occur from Aug. 1 to Oct. 15.

As many as 23 named storms are forecast to develop this hurricane season.

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