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Gordon Forces Shut Ins, Evacuations in Eastern GOM

About 156,907 b/d (9.23%) of oil production and 232 MMcf/d (9.06%) of natural gas output had been shut in by midday Tuesday in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico (GOM) as operators prepared to face Tropical Storm Gordon, a likely Category 1 hurricane before it was to make landfall by Tuesday night.

The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE), an arm of the Interior Department, estimated the shut ins based on reports submitted by 24 operators as of 11:30 a.m. CT. Estimated shut-in production information is based on the amount of oil and gas the operator expected to produce that day. 

According to the 1 p.m. CT Tuesday forecast report by the National Hurricane Center (NHC), Gordon’s center was near latitude 28.9 North, longitude 87.3 West and moving toward the northwest near 15 mph. That general motion was expected to continue until landfall, expected by Tuesday night along the north-central Gulf Coast. 

On the forecast track, the center of Gordon was seen moving across the northern GOM and approaching the north-central Gulf Coast “within the hurricane warning area” late Tuesday afternoon or evening, then move inland over the lower Mississippi Valley into early Wednesday, NHC said.
“Reports from an Air Force Reserve Unit reconnaissance aircraft indicate that maximum sustained winds remain near 65 mph with higher gusts,” NHC said. “Some strengthening is expected...and Gordon is forecast to be a hurricane when it makes landfall…”
According to operator reports submitted to BSEE, 54 production platforms had been evacuated as of midday Tuesday, or 7.86% of 687 manned platforms. Personnel had been evacuated from one non-dynamically positioned rig, equivalent to 5% of the 20 rigs of this type now operating in the U.S. offshore. 

One dynamically positioned (DP) rig also had moved out of the storm’s path as a precaution, representing 5.2% of the 19 DP rigs in operation. DP rigs are not moored to the seafloor and maintain their location while conducting well operations by using thrusters and propellers.

Shut-in procedures frequently may be done from a remote location. During previous hurricane seasons, the shut-in valves functioned 100% of the time, efficiently shutting in production from wells on the Outer Continental Shelf, BSEE noted. 

Some exploration and production companies, as well as pipelines, working in the Eastern GOM evacuated personnel as needed.

“We are carefully monitoring the weather conditions in the eastern Gulf of Mexico, and to ensure the safety of our people have removed all personnel from our Horn Mountain and Marlin facilities,” an Anadarko Petroleum Corp. spokesperson said. “We have also shut in production at both platforms to protect the environment. All other Anadarko operated and producing platforms remain on production. We will return personnel to Horn Mountain and Marlin when it is safe to do so.”

A Chevron Corp. spokesperson said, “In preparation for Tropical Storm Gordon, we have shut-in production at one of our Chevron-operated Gulf of Mexico facilities and have evacuated some nonessential personnel. Production from other Chevron-operated assets in the Gulf remains at normal levels. Chevron will continue to closely monitor the storm and remains focused on the safety of our workforce, the integrity of our facilities and the protection of the environment.”

Royal Dutch Shell plc did not indicate that it had evacuated or shut in facilities. “Shell is actively monitoring Tropical Storm Gordon,” said a spokesperson. “We have taken the necessary steps to secure our assets and ensure our people are safe. As always, our top priority is the safety of our people, the environment and our assets.”

Nautilus Pipeline evacuated “all non-essential personnel” from the Ship Shoal 207 platform on Saturday. Weather had not yet impacted service on the system. Destin Pipeline in a posting said it did not expect impacts to its operations and there were no plans to evacuate the MP 260 platform.

Genscape Inc. said Tuesday its Spring Rock daily gas pipe production report estimated Tuesday’s GOM volumes had dropped to a 50-day low at 10.19 Bcf/d, with offshore GOM declines leading the way, “having fallen to 2.34 Bcf/d.”

BSEE plans to update the evacuation and shut-in statistics at 1:00 p.m. CDT each day as needed. 

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