Two-thirds of US Gulf crude offline ahead of Category 2 Hurricane Zeta
Two-thirds of the US Gulf of Mexico’s crude oil volumes were shut in Oct. 28 ahead of Hurricane Zeta, which strengthened into a Category 2 storm just hours before an anticipated landfall near New Orleans.
An estimated 1.23 million b/d of crude production and 1,205 MMcf/d of natural gas production was shut in, reflecting 66.6% and 44.5% of US Gulf output, respectively, according to the US Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement. About 35% of the Gulf’s platforms and rigs, or 231 facilities, were evacuated, BSEE said.
Zeta is the 27th named storm of the year, tying the 2005 record with more than a month remaining in the hurricane season.
Chevron, Shell, BP, BHP, Murphy Oil and Equinor all confirmed they shut down platforms and production ahead of the storm. However, onshore oil refineries thus far have opted to keep running. The hurricane mostly is expected to be a wind event.
BP and Chevron count among those shutting-in all of their operated platforms. Chevron also shut down its Fourchon and Empire terminals in Louisiana, as well as their related pipeline systems.
BP said it shut-in its four operated platforms — Atlantis, Mad Dog, Na Kika and Thunder Horse — and evacuated personnel.
Shell, on the other hand, only closed down its Stones FPSO, which happens to be its Gulf project that’s farthest offshore.
BHP spokeswoman Judy Dane said the Australian firm shut-in and evacuated its Shenzi and Neptune, while Equinor said it shut-in production at its Titan platform.
Murphy oil spokeswoman Megan Larson said the offshore producer evacuated and shut-in certain facilities, but did not name specific assets.
Occidental Petroleum was more vague, saying in a statement, “All of our facilities have plans to prepare for weather-related events, and those in the storm’s potential path are implementing those procedures.”
Oil and gas volumes in the US Gulf will yet again be disrupted from a record-setting 2020 Atlantic hurricane season.
Earlier in October, Hurricane Delta forced more than 90% of the US Gulf’s nearly 1.9 million b/d of crude production to be shut in, but Zeta isn’t expected to take that much production offline.
Named storms Zeta, Delta, Beta, Sally, Marco, Laura, Hanna and Cristobal have all disrupted activities in the Gulf from June through October.
Zeta’s storm cone has narrowed. The current path targets roughly 757,400 b/d of refining capacity, down from 2.7 million b/d earlier in the week.
Refiners continue to monitor the storm, based on their hurricane readiness and response plans.
“We are closely monitoring Tropical Storm Zeta. Operations are currently normal,” said ExxonMobil spokesman Jeremy Eikenberry about the status of its 517,000 b/d Baton Rouge, Louisiana plant.
Shell said it planned to keep operating its refineries and petrochemical plants in Louisiana and Alabama during the storm.
The Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality said it hasn’t received any notifications of plans to shut down any refineries or plants ahead of Zeta.
Recently, Citgo Petroleum’s and Phillips 66’s Lake Charles refineries came back online after sustaining damages from Hurricane Laura in August. Phillips 66’s Alliance Refinery in Belle Chasse, Louisiana also remains offline for maintenance work.
Also, the Cameron Highway Oil Pipeline System, known as CHOPS, that originates in the Gulf of Mexico is expected to stay offline at least into late November after an associated offshore platform was damaged by Laura.
US chemical producers implemented storm preparation plans as well.
“Certainly, our plants in Geismar and Plaquemine are monitoring the development of Hurricane Zeta,” Westlake Chemical spokesman Chip Swearngen said Oct. 28. “It is forecast to hit the state around New Orleans and toward the east, which should mean minimal impact, if any, on our plants in the river parishes south of Baton Rouge.”
Dow Chemical spokeswoman Ashley Mendoza said the company has no plans to adjust production or reduce staffing at Louisiana plants.
Several chemical companies operate plants in Geismar, about 66 miles east of New Orleans, and Plaquemine, another 20 miles east of Geismar.
Those include Westlake’s Geismar and Plaquemine complexes. Plaquemine also is home to Shintech’s Louisiana PVC complex, where construction is under way to expand PVC output.
In addition, Dow Chemical operates a complex in Plaquemine, and NOVA Chemical has a merchant cracker in nearby Geismar.