The National Hurricane Center (NHC) was reporting Friday afternoon that an area of low pressure off the Yucatan Peninsula in the southwestern Gulf of Mexico could threaten Gulf of Mexico (GOM) energy interests. Several companies had reported that they had begun evacuations of nonessential personnel.

"Although the shower and thunderstorm activity is currently disorganized and located well to the east and northeast of the low center...environmental conditions could become more favorable for development [of a storm] if the low moves toward the west or west-northwest over the next could days," NHC said on its website.

"Interests in the Central and Western Gulf of Mexico should monitor the progress of the system through the weekend."

If the low-pressure area tracks northward, it would be moving into an area of the Gulf that is less-conducive to storm development. The low-pressure area had a 50% chance of developing into a tropical cyclone during the succeeding 48 hours and a 60% chance of doing so within the succeeding five days, NHC said Friday afternoon.

BP plc said on its website Thursday that evacuation of some nonessential personnel had begun. "Although Tropical Disturbance #33 became less organized overnight, with forecasts suggesting a track across the central Gulf, near several BP facilities, we are now taking additional steps to respond.

"BP has begun evacuating non-essential personnel from BP's four production platforms, while BP-contracted drilling rigs have temporarily halted operations and are preparing to evade the storm if necessary. Oil and natural gas production at all BP-operated platforms remains online at this time."

On Thursday afternoon Enbridge Inc. said that its Manta Ray Offshore Gathering Co. Inc. had begun evacuating nonessential personnel. The Manta Ray system remained in service. Marathon Oil Corp. had evacuated some GOM workers as well.

 NHC on Friday was also tracking Tropical Depression Erin, which was about 540 miles west of the Cape Verde Islands and moving west-northwest at 17 mph on a track expected to carry it into the central Atlantic by midweek. Erin, which was downgraded from a Tropical Storm early Friday, was not expected to gain strength over the weekend, NHC said.