Energy producers in the US Gulf have started preparing for Tropical Storm Ida, which is anticipated to make landfall along the central Gulf Coast this weekend, according to the National Hurricane Center.
Tropical Storm Ida intensified Thursday to become the ninth named storm of the year. Currently located in the Caribbean Sea, forecasters predict the storm could intensify into a major hurricane as it crosses the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico, approaching the Gulf Coast as a major hurricane late Sunday or early Monday, the National Hurricane Centre said.
Hurricanes with wind speeds greater than 178 kilometres (111 miles) per hour are classified as major.
BP on Thursday said it has evacuated personnel from its four offshore platforms, and has begun securing its facilities as the storm is projected to move across central Gulf of Mexico over the next few days. BHP has also evacuated non-essential personnel from its facilities, Reuters said.
Anglo-Dutch supermajor Shell said it was monitoring the storm and as a pre-cautionary measure have begun evacuating non-essential personnel from its assets in the Gulf of Mexico. This includes the floating production, storage and offloading vessel Turritella, which the company said is preparing to disconnect and commence sail away to safer waters.
US supermajor Chevron said it is removing non-essential personnel and that its production remained at normal levels on Thursday.
US independent Hess is monitoring the storm closely and will implement precautionary measures for its facilities in the Gulf of Mexico if needed, the company told Upstream in an emailed response.
The Gulf of Mexico accounts for 17% of total US crude oil production and 5% of total US dry natural gas production.
Over 45% of total US petroleum refining capacity is located along the Gulf coast, as well as 51% of total US natural gas processing plant capacity.
ExxonMobil said it was preparing its 520,000 barrel per day Baton Rouge, Louisiana refinery for severe weather, but operations were normal on Thursday, according to a Reuters report.
Phillips 66 operations at refineries in Lake Charles and Alliance, Louisiana, "will be adjusted based on the storm's progression," spokesman Bernardo Fallas told Reuters.
Storm preparations come four years after Hurricane Harvey hit the Gulf Coast, dumping significant amounts of rain in areas across Texas and Louisiana.