Not to be outdone by the widespread blackouts experienced in the Northeast, Texas was bracing for what could become Hurricane Erika touching down in Brownsville, TX. At presstime Friday evening, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) expected Tropical Storm Erika to make landfall in South Texas and Northeastern Mexico as a hurricane.

According to Miami-based NHC, Tropical Storm Erika’s center at 4 p.m. CDT was located approximately 245 miles east of Brownsville, moving westward at 22 MPH. On this track, the forecasting agency said Erika was expected to be on the coast by early Saturday. The NHC said that maximum sustained winds have increased to 60 MPH with higher gusts.

The NHC said Tropical Storm force winds extend outward up to 140 miles from the center, noting that there is also a possibility of isolated tornadoes along the middle Texas coast.

The NHC said Erika is “gradually becoming better organized…racing toward South Texas and Northeastern Mexico. Hurricane warnings are in effect from Brownsville to Baffin Bay, TX, and from La Pesca Mexico northward to the U.S. border. “Preparations to protect life and property should be rushed to completion in the hurricane warning area,” NHC said.

A Transcontinental Gas Pipe Line spokeswoman said there were no production shut ins on Thursday due to Erika and the company was expecting no significant shut-ins on Friday due to the rapid pace of the storm. She said it looks like producers are evacuating only non-essential personnel and are expected to maintain production.

However, as of Friday late afternoon, 33 platforms and one rig had been evacuated in the more western portion of the Gulf, according to Minerals Management Service spokeswoman Caryl Fagot. She pegged Gulf shut-ins at 134.65 MMcf of gas and 677 bbl of oil for Friday. The shut in figures equate to 0.96% of daily Gulf gas production and 0.04% of daily Gulf oil production.

Apache in the early morning hours Friday evacuated Zones 1 and 2 (about 75 people) with production put on timers. At approximately 10:30 a.m. EDT, Apache spokesman David Higgins, director of strategic communications, said Apache had shut-in 134 MMcf/d of natural gas gross (77 MMcf/d net) and 4,200 b/d of oil gross (2,800 b/d net) “Because the storm is fast moving, we expect to be able to get back out to the platforms soon after the storm passes,” he said.

Shell Oil Co.’s Stephanie Johnson said 15 non-essential employees were evacuated from Auger (Garden Banks 426) on Thursday and 18 employees were taken off Shell’s western shallow water assets on Friday. “Minor shut-ins are expected on two platforms not currently remotely operated, amounting to less than 15 MMcf/d,” she said.

ExxonMobil Corp. spokesman Bob Davis said Friday afternoon that his company was in a phase one operation. “We have had no production shut in, nor have we had any evacuations of our people,” Davis said, noting that ExxonMobil currently has 550 workers in the Gulf. “The storm is pretty much south of our operations…and we think it is probably going to hit land by [Saturday].”

Early Friday morning, the Louisiana Offshore Oil Port stopped offloading tankers due to Erika. “We suspended operations early this morning because of high seas,” said LOOP spokeswoman Barb Hestermann said. “We expect to be back online probably early evening, offloading the ships. It’s just a temporary disruption, we did not evacuate the platforms.” She noted that LOOP continues to make deliveries to its customers from inventory at its Clovelly Dome Storage Terminal located near Galliano, LA.

Affiliated pipelines Trunkline and Sea Robin warned that Erika’s current path “could cause production losses on its offshore systems.” The company said that in the event production connected to Trunkline’s offshore system is reduced or shut in, Trunkline will require shippers to take appropriate action.

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