Tropical Storm Barry, upgraded by the National Hurricane Center (NHC) early Thursday, remained on an uncertain path, with forecasts indicating the immense rainmaker could come ashore this weekend between an area stretching from the upper Texas coast to Mississippi.

The low pressure area over the northern Gulf of Mexico (GOM) became better organized and the circulation center also became better defined, leading forecasters to upgrade the system to a tropical storm. Hurricane status is likely before landfall, NHC said.

Hurricane warnings were issued late Thursday by the NHC for the coast of Louisiana from Intracoastal City to Grand Isle. A tropical storm warning was in effect for Lake Pontchartrain and Lake Maurepas including metropolitan New Orleans, as well as for the Louisiana coast west of Intracoastal City to Cameron.

Barry is expected to produce total rain accumulations of 10-20 inches over southeastern Louisiana and southwestern Mississippi, with isolated maximum amounts of 25 inches. Over the remainder of the Lower Mississippi Valley, total rain accumulations of 4-8 inches are expected, with isolated maximum amounts of 12 inches.

The initial motion was “rather uncertain” as Barry was being steered by a weak low- to mid-level ridge to the north, with a weakness in the ridge likely to develop within 24-48 hours. NHC’s forecast track put the center of Barry near the central/southeastern coast of Louisiana Friday night or Saturday.

Based on operator reports, the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement estimated at midday Thursday that about 44.5% of natural gas production, or 1.24 Bcf/d of output, had been shut in, along with more than 53% of oil production, or 1 million b/d.

Personnel have been evacuated from a total of 191 production platforms, or about 29% of the 669 manned platforms.

Personnel also had been evacuated from seven rigs, i.e. non-dynamically positioned, or DP rigs, equal to around one-third of the 21 in operation. Eleven DP rigs had moved off location out of the storm’s path, representing more than half (55%) of the 20 working in the GOM.

Air Force Reserve and Hurricane Hunter aircraft from the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) indicated maximum sustained winds had increased to near 40 mph. “Additional strengthening is expected during the next day or two, and Barry could become a hurricane late Friday or early Saturday.”

Other weather models, including by NOAA, were forecasting Barry to move almost due north with landfall in Mississippi. The UK Meteorological model, aka UKMET, is taking the cyclone on a path to strike the upper Texas coast. Other models “lie between these extremes,” NHC noted.

State of Emergency

Evacuations continued from oil and gas facilities and across Louisiana after Gov. John Bel Edwards declared a state of emergency. Mandatory evacuations were ordered for Plaquemines and Jefferson parishes, where a lot of the state’s energy infrastructure is centered.

“No one should take this storm lightly,” Edwards said. “As we know all too well in Louisiana, low intensity does not necessarily mean low impact...We expect multiple parishes to declare states of emergency, and we stand ready to assist our local partners with all available resources.”

Barry would be a “very significant weather event” by itself, “but if you look at the fact that we got the elevated Mississippi River, and we’ve had more rainfall in Louisiana over the last several months than normal, you know that it makes it much harder to deal with events of this type.”

Oil and gas supply is to be impacted, but there also is expected to be an impact on demand, according to Jefferies LLC.

“Power burn will be impacted through cooler temperatures and power outages, with the potential for longer lasting effects if power infrastructure is damaged,” Jefferies analysts said.

Liquefied natural gas (LNG) demand also should face some impacts. Gas flows from Cheniere Energy Inc.’s Sabine Pass, LA, export facility had dropped to 3.0 Bcf/d over the last two days versus 3.7 Bcf/d for July 1-9, according to Jefferies.

“We are monitoring the storm and taking the appropriate steps to keep our personnel safe and secure the facility,” Cheniere spokesperson Jenna Palfrey said. “We will continue to coordinate with the Coast Guard and state and local officials to help ensure the safety of our people, our communities and our facility.”

As of Thursday afternoon, the Louisiana export facility continued to operate, “and we do not expect major impacts to Sabine Pass operations from this storm,” she said.

Genscape Inc. estimated aggregate evening cycle delivery nominations to Sabine Pass had dipped day/day by around 313 MMcf/d and stood at 2.8 Bcf/d on Thursday morning. Conversely, scheduled nominations to Sempra Energy Inc.’s Cameron LNG project in Louisiana that is scheduled for start up later this year had increased to 624 MMcf/d from 390 MMcf/d on Wednesday, said analysts Dominic Eggerman and Allison Hurley.

Meanwhile, nominations headed toward Cheniere’s Corpus Christi LNG facility in South Texas, out of the projected path of the storm, remained flat at 1.2 Bcf/d.

Like many of its GOM production peers, BP plc was evacuating offshore personnel and shutting in at operated facilities across the Gulf Coast, a spokesperson told NGI on Thursday.

“Once this process is complete,  BP will continue to monitor offshore conditions to determine when conditions are safe to redeploy personnel and resume operations. We cannot yet predict when that will be. The safety of our personnel and contractors will remain BP’s highest priority.”

Pipeline operators also were proceeding cautiously in deciding whether to shutter operations. Enbridge Inc., which handles more than 40% of total offshore natural gas production and more than 70% of deepwater natural gas production, said it had evacuated all personnel from Ship Shoal (SS) 207, SS 332A and South Marsh Island platforms. The evacuations required shutting in some pipeline systems, a spokesperson told NGI.

“All offshore platforms are still in operation with the exception of our deepwater pipelines, which will be shut in for operational purposes...Onshore we will continue to monitor the storm’s development, but at this time operations are not affected.”

Operations at Destin Pipeline Co. LLC, jointly owned by American Midstream and Enbridge, which moves up to 1.2 Bcf/d from multiple offshore platforms via the Main Pass (MP) 260 system to a straddle processing plant at Pascagoula, MS, were “normal with no plans to evacuate MP 260.”

Enbridge’s Garden Banks Gas Pipeline LLC had evacuated all personnel from the South Marsh 76 platform, but the Garden Banks system remained in service Thursday morning.

Meanwhile, the mandatory evacuations from Louisiana’s Plaquemine Parish, led Enbridge to evacuate the Venice, LA, facility. However, the Mississippi Canyon Gas Pipeline LLC was to remain in service “as long as delivery points can continue accepting deliveries” from the Mississippi Canyon producing area in the deepwater.

In addition, Enbridge’s Nautilus Pipeline Co. LLC said production shut-ins related to the storm meant it was no longer “transporting quantities adequate” for the Neptune plant to continue processing offshore gas deliveries from Nautilus.

The Nautilus system reduced scheduled quantities at the Manta Ray at SS 207 A (meter NA036) receipt point to zero effective for the Thursday (July 11) gas day until further notice.

“This event constitutes a point specific force majeure for all gas received at the Manta Ray at SS 207 A receipt point,” Enbridge said.

A critical notice by Transcontinental Gas Pipe Line Co. LLC (Transco) indicated offshore production on the Southeast Louisiana Lateral (SELA) had been shut in. Additionally, third-party gas processing at the North Terrebonne Gas Processing Plant, which straddles SELA, was taken offline.

In preparation for the storm, Transco closed valves coming in from the GOM late Wednesday, which shut in output south of Station 62.

Also effective Thursday, Transco said gas scheduled for receipt south of SELA Station 62 Main Pass 101.67 for delivery north of Station 62 was not to be confirmed.

Several refinery complexes in Louisiana may be hit the hardest, according to Tudor, Pickering, Holt & Co. (TPH).

“The storm is bringing considerable rain to an area that already features high water levels on the Mississippi River,” TPH analysts said in a note Thursday. “Although we have not heard of any closures yet, five out of our eight covered names have refineries in Louisiana and face potential exposure to the storm.”

Valero Energy Corp. “has an estimated 26% of its capacity in the storm path” with its Meraux and St. Charles, LA, facilities, as well as the one in Port Arthur, TX, analysts said.

Delek US Holdings Inc.’s Krotz Springs, LA, has an estimated 25% capacity, while Phillips 66’s Louisiana facilities in Alliance and Lake Charles have 23%. PBF Energy’s Chalmette, LA, facility is another 21%, while Marathon Petroleum Corp.’s Garyville, LA, plant has an estimated 18%.