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GOM Operators Evacuate, Idle Platforms as Hurricane Delta Nears

By Peter Appleby | Tue, 10/06/2020 - 16:59

Offshore oil companies in the Gulf of Mexico are bracing themselves against the impact of Hurricane Delta as it moves to make landfall on Mexico’s Caribbean coast before heading north.

The Category 4 hurricane is “expected to bring a life-threatening storm surge and extreme winds” that, according to its categorization, should be between 130-156mph (209-251km/h) according to the US National Hurricane Center with the northern area of Quintana Roo and Yucatan forecast to take the brunt of the force in Mexico.

Current predictions on the hurricane’s trajectory suggest that offshore platforms in Mexico’s Gulf of Mexico will fortunately avoid the worst of Delta’s strength, but in the US GOM operators are acting ahead of its arrival.

BP yesterday announced that it was removing all non-essential workers from four of its platforms in the US GOM, while today, Shell began removing all non-essential workers from all of its nine assets in the US GOM, Reuters reports. “Shell is preparing to shut down production at several assets and has begun evacuating non-essential personnel from all nine of its assets in the Gulf of Mexico,” the company said. BHP and Equinor are also evacuating workers and shutting down platforms. Murphy Oil is monitoring the situation.

Hurricanes and tropical storms are a concern for platforms and assets in the Gulf of Mexico during the months of September and October, often originating in the Caribbean before moving towards the southern states of the US. This hurricane season has already posed problems for operators, with Hurricane Sally causing the closure of platforms and the 255.6Mboe/d capacity Phillips 66 refinery in Louisiana in mid-September.

Quintana Roo Governor Carlos Joaquín announced on Twitter that the state’s Civil Protection agency has begun evacuating people from towns along the coast, including some of the country’s most famous tourist resorts. “We have begun the evacuation process of Holbox island, Punta Allen, Cancun’s and Puerto Morelos’ hotel areas” and others, he said.

As of 2pm Mexico City time, Hurricane Delta is located some 420km southwest of Cozumel. According to the NHC, waters levels where the hurricane makes land could rise by as much as 3m.

The center’s category chart says Category 4 hurricanes can cause “power outages that last for weeks to possibly months” and that “most of the area will be uninhabitable for weeks or months.”

Peter Appleby Peter Appleby Journalist and Industry Analyst