Tropical Storm Don forces evacuations, shuts-in oil and gas production in the Gulf

By Phaedra Friend Troy

Offshore oil and gas operators and contractors are evacuating production platforms and drilling rigs in the path of Tropical Storm Don.

Regulatory watchdog BOEMRE reports that personnel have been evacuated from 11 production platforms, shutting in a small amount of production in the US Gulf of Mexico, as operators ready for the storm’s passing.

When operators evacuate a production platform, all wells are shut-in as a safety measure. According to BOEMRE, about 94,962 barrels of oil a day and 148,000 million cubic feet of natural gas a day is currently shut-in because of Tropical Storm Don.

This represents approximately 6.8 percent of the daily oil production and 2.8 percent of the daily natural gas production in the US Gulf. 

Safety First

In addition to evacuating nearly 80 non-essential personnel from other operations in the southwest Gulf of Mexico, Shell (NYSE:RDS-A) (NYSE:RDS-B) has completely evacuated and shut-in its Perdido Spar facility, returning 116 personnel to shore from the deepwater project.

No offshore drilling rigs have been completely evacuated, but Shell reports that the company evacuated non-essential personnel from the contracted Noble Danny Adkins semisubmersible drilling rig.

Many offshore drilling rigs can be moved out of the path of oncoming storms, but it appears that most rigs are out of danger. The world’s largest offshore rig contractor, Transocean (NYSE:RIG) reports that its rigs and staff are safe.

“We continue to monitor Tropical Storm Don closely, and our 12 mobile offshore drilling rigs are taking precautionary actions in the event the storm heads their way to further ensure the safety of our people and assets,” Transocean spokesman Guy Cantwell told PennEnergy. “So far, we have not moved any rigs, nor have we evacuated non-essential personnel.” 

Tropical Storm Don Nears

According to the National Hurricane center, Tropical Storm Don is currently located about 255 miles southeast of Corpus Christi, Texas, packing maximum sustained winds measuring 50 miles per hour. Don is currently moving 14 miles an hour to the west-northwest toward South Texas, with a Tropical Storm Warning posted for the Texas coastline from Brownsville to Matagorda.

Tropical Storm Don is expected to make landfall sometime late Friday or early Saturday.

BOEMRE formed a Hurricane Response Team for Tropical Storm Don, and the team will work with operators and contractors in the Gulf after the storm passes to inspect facilities and work to bring production back on-line. 

The 2011 Atlantic hurricane season is expected to be an active one, with as many as 18 named storms with up to six major hurricanes predicted.

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