HOUSTON – The US oil and gas industry, already reeling from economic headwinds in the wake of the coronavirus or Covid-19 global pandemic, is bracing for yet more disruption courtesy of an approaching tropical storm.
The US National Hurricane Center says that Tropical Storm Cristobal will be positioned over Mexico for the next few days. As reported by Forbes, the storm has already caused deadly flash flooding there as well as neighboring Central American countries may make landfall stateside by Sunday (June 7) night.
The storm is also expected to pick up strength as it heads north over the Gulf of Mexico. The center said Cristobal is the third major storm to form in the Atlantic this year. That makes 2020’s start to the U.S. hurricane season the fastest on record. Gusts of at least 65 mph are expected and if such a strength holds, Cristobal will be the second storm to strike the US barely a week into the official hurricane season.
It poses another unwanted worry for the beleaguered oil and gas industry as offshore Gulf production platforms in the storm's path account for 19% of U.S. crude oil production and 6% of dry natural gas production, according to the US Energy Information Administration.
Occidental Petroleum and Equinor say they are removing non-essential workers from some Gulf of Mexico facilities ahead of the storm. Equinor says it will shut-in production at its Titan oil platform and remove remaining workers on Friday if the storm continues along its projected path, and Occidental says it is removing non-essential workers from some central Gulf facilities.
BP says it is removing offshore personnel and ramping down production at its Thunder Horse, Atlantis and Na Kika oil and natural gas production platforms in the Gulf.
Other Gulf of Mexico operators including BHP, Chevron, Exxon Mobil, Hess and Royal Dutch Shell say they are monitoring the storm but have not evacuated workers so far.