Gulf Shipping and Oil Prepare for Tropical Storm

Tropical Storm

Published Jun 16, 2015 2:22 PM by The Maritime Executive

Shipping and oil operations along the Gulf of Mexico completed preparations ahead of Tropical Storm Bill, which began pounding the Texas coast on Tuesday.

Traffic in the Houston Ship Channel, the biggest U.S. petrochemical port, was stopped on Monday to protect vessels from rough seas. The suspension of ship traffic in the 52-mile channel deeply affects the flow of crude oil and petroleum products as refineries and processing plants along the gulf depend on access to the channel.

Also, several firms, including Chevron Corp and Royal Dutch Shell, evacuated non-essential offshore workers over the weekend. However, output from oil platforms has not been affected in the U.S. Gulf, which pumps about a fifth of all domestic crude. Onshore, LyondellBasell said it was deploying sandbags at its refining and chemical facilities, and Shell said only workers essential to fuel production would work Tuesday.

According to the National Hurricane Center the storm made landfall South of Houston around noon Tuesday. Heavy rain had already drenched parts of Texas over the weekend, pushing already high rivers closer to overflowing their banks.

Flash flood watches were in effect for central Texas and the Houston area, regions where floods last month swallowed thousands of vehicles and damaged homes. Around 30 people have been killed in flooding over the past weeks.

Bill is the second named tropical storm of the 2015 U.S. Atlantic season after Ana, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said.