--Companies are the latest to evacuate nonessential U.S. Gulf personnel
--BP and Apache are two of the largest producers in Gulf
--Most companies have not yet shut in production
(Updates with ConocoPhillips information in first and fifth paragraphs and storm details in seventh paragraph)
BP PLC (BP, BP.LN), ConocoPhillips (>> ConocoPhillips) and Apache Corp. (>> Apache Corporation) are starting to evacuate nonessential personnel from their Gulf production platforms as a storm system in the region edges north, the companies said Saturday.
BP, by far the largest oil and gas producer in the deep-water Gulf of Mexico, is the latest to start withdrawing workers from the offshore region as the large storm system is forecast to have a 90% chance of transforming into a tropical cyclone within the next two days, according to National Hurricane Center forecasts. The London-based oil company operates four of the seven largest oil and gas platforms in the Gulf, which produced a combined 410,000 barrels of oil equivalent a day in 2010.
"We will begin evacuating nonessential personnel from BP-operated facilities in the Gulf, as well as taking other precautions to safeguard our offshore workforce and operations," BP spokesman Brett Clanton said. The company is also "taking precautions" at its 406,000 barrel-a-day refinery in Texas City, Texas, Clanton added. The refinery is the second largest in the state after Exxon Mobil Corp.'s (XOM) 560,000 barrel-a-day refinery in Baytown, Texas.
Apache said it is evacuating nonessential workers from its operations in the Central Gulf East but has not yet shut in any production. Apache is the largest producer in the shallow waters off the Gulf, having produced about 44,000 barrels of oil a day and 600 million cubic feet of natural gas a day there in 2010.
ConocoPhillips said it evacuated nonessential personnel from its Magnolia platform, one of the company's smallest in the Gulf.
BHP Billiton Ltd. (BHP, BHP.AU) Friday shut in production at two of its U.S. Gulf wells, while Anadarko Petroleum Corp. (APC), Marathon Oil Corp. (>> Marathon Oil Corporation), Murphy Oil Corp. (MUR) and Royal Dutch Shell Plc. (RDSA, RDSA.LN) started evacuating nonessential staff from their production platforms. Oil and gas companies employ thousands of workers on production platforms scattered throughout the Gulf.
Tropical storms and hurricanes can be disruptive to the U.S. Gulf's massive energy infrastructure. The current ill-defined group of storms--Disturbance 11--is bringing winds of up to 29 miles an hour near the Louisiana coast and could form into a tropical depression or tropical storm by the end of the weekend, according to the National Hurricane Center.
Gulf of Mexico federal offshore production accounts for 29% of oil and 12% of gas production in the U.S., down from about 30% for oil and 17% for gas in 2005, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
As of March, federal offshore production from the Gulf was 1.4 million barrels of oil a day and 4.4 billion cubic feet of gas a day, down from its peak of 1.7 million barrels of oil a day and 6.3 billion cubic feet of gas a day in 2010.
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