Tropical Storm Don takes aim for Texas coast, as oil and gas operators evacuate offshore facilities

By Phaedra Friend Troy

Tropical Storm Don is currently churning through the US Gulf of Mexico, taking aim for the Texas coastline

On Thursday morning, Tropical Storm Don is located about 545 miles east-southeast of Corpus Christi, Texas, moving west-northwest across the southern Gulf of Mexico at a rate of 10 miles an hour. 

The storm is expected to quickly bound through the Southern and Central Gulf Thursday, making landfall along the Texas coast on Friday. A tropical storm watch is in affect along the Texas coastline, from Brownsville to west of the San Luis Pass. 

Currently, Tropical Storm Don is packing maximum sustained winds near 40 miles an hour, with some strengthening expected before the storm hits the coast. A small tropical cyclone, Don extends tropical-storm-force winds only about 45 miles from the eye of the storm. 

The National Hurricane Center has deployed a hurricane hunter plane, which is approaching the storm to gather more information. 

Oil & Gas Industry Steps Up Safety Measures 

In response to the storm, super-major Shell (NYSE:RDS-A) (NYSE:RDS-B) has begun securing current well operations at its Perdido Spar, Auger platform, and contracted Noble Danny Adkins semisubmersible drilling rig. Additionally, Shell began evacuating 70 non-essential personnel from facilities in the path of the storm, although oil and gas production is not expected to be affected. 

“Our priorities at this time are ensuring the safety of personnel, protecting the environment and minimizing production and operational impact,” Shell said in the storm update. 

Other operators in the Gulf of Mexico have also begun evacuating non-essential personnel in the path of Tropical Storm Don, reported The Wall Street Journal, including BP, Anadarko, Apache and BHP Billiton.
Especially during hurricane season, the oil and gas industry is keenly aware of safety and environment, many time evacuating personnel and stopping production. 

The last storms to have an impact on US oil and gas production were Hermine in early September and Alex in late June of 2010. While Hurricane Ida shut-in production in 2009, the most recent major impact to oil and gas operations in the Gulf was Hurricanes Ike and Gustav in 2008. In 2005, the one-two punch of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita destroyed 115 platforms, damaged 535 subsea pipeline segments and caused the near-complete shut-down of oil and gas production in the US Gulf of Mexico. 

The 2011 Atlantic hurricane season is expected to be above normal, with up to 18 named storms predicted and up to six major hurricanes rating as a Category 3, 4 or 5. 

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