U.S. offshore oil producers on Tuesday were keeping a wary eye on Hurricane Ian’s track as the powerful storm shut-in at least 480,000 barrels of oil production as it heads toward Florida.
The hurricane entered the U.S. Gulf of Mexico on Tuesday and is forecast to become a dangerous, category 4 storm over the warm waters of the Gulf, according to National Hurricane Center (NHC) forecaster Eric Blake.
Ian weakened after crossing Cuba and was packing winds of 115 mile per hour (185 kph) at 11 a.m. ET, the NHC said. It is heading toward making an extremely dangerous landfall in southwestern Florida, Blake predicted.
It is the first hurricane this year to disrupt oil and gas production in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico, which produces about 15% of the nation’s crude oil and 5% of dry natural gas. Ian’s course takes it east of the core of U.S. offshore oil and gas production.
“The storm is so massive, it’s going to affect all of Florida,” said Jim Foerster, a consulting meteorologist at data and analytics firm DTN. “This is going to be really, really bad.”
Ian will be “very impactful, not only to the offshore operations, but certainly, there will be tens of thousands of people without power over land,” Foerster added.
Offshore producers Chevron, BP, Occidental Petroleum and Hess on Monday said they had taken precautions ahead of the storm’s arrival in the Gulf.
BP evacuated personnel and halted output at two offshore production platforms that together pump up to 380,000 barrels of oil per day (bpd). Chevron also removed staff from two platforms that together produce 105,000 bpd.
Occidental and Hess said they were implementing storm procedures without providing specifics.
Tankers and vessels sailed west and away from the eastern Gulf of Mexico, Refinitiv Eikon ship tracking showed.