Encana Corp. and ExxonMobil Corp. on Thursday separately suspended operations at two natural gas prospects that are offshore Nova Scotia (NS) to prepare for the arrival of Hurricane Earl.

Oil refineries, nuclear plants and the few gas facilities were shutting in along the East Coast, while utilities were preparing for possible storm damage ahead of the Category Three storm, which is expected to strafe the coast in the next three days.

Encana suspended drilling and pulled personnel from its Deep Panuke operations, which are scheduled to ramp up production in 2011. The prospect is about 250 kilometers southeast of Halifax, NS, on the Scotian Shelf. Gas from Deep Panuke would be processed offshore and transported, via subsea pipeline, to Goldsboro, NS, for further transport to market via the Maritimes & Northeast Pipeline.

ExxonMobil also said it pulled nonessential staff from the Sable Offshore Energy Project (SOEP), which it operates off Nova Scotia. The SOEP, which is owned by ExxonMobil, Shell Canada Ltd., Imperial Oil Resources, Pengrowth Energy Trust and Mosbacher Operating Ltd., is the largest construction project ever undertaken in Nova Scotia.

There are two main SOEP processing facilities offshore to be evacuated. The Thebaud gas processing facility accommodates 40 people and is the hub of Sable's offshore activity. The Venture platform, second in size and also offshore, accommodates 24 people who do preliminary dehydration work on gas from the wells. The SOEP Goldsboro Gas Plant in Guysborough County, NS, processes up to 17 MMcf/d.

Meanwhile, officials with the Canaport LNG (liquefied natural gas) facility in Saint John, New Brunswick, were monitoring the storm's activity Thursday. No decision had yet been made to shut in the facility. Canaport has a maximum sendout capacity of 1.2 Bcf/d.

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