Offshore Rigs Prepare for Hurricane in U.S. Gulf of Mexico

The storm system that may become Hurricane Barry, July 10 (NOAA)

Published Jul 10, 2019 1:58 PM by The Maritime Executive

A storm system brewing over the U.S. Gulf of Mexico is expected to strengthen into the first hurricane of the season, and it will likely make landfall in Louisiana or Texas this weekend, according to NOAA's National Hurricane Center. 

A tropical storm watch and a storm surge watch have already been issued for parts of the Louisiana coast, and the areas covered will likely expand by tonight. In addition to winds of 70-90 mph and rising waters from storm surge, exceptionally heavy rain is expected throughout the central Gulf Coast through early next week, NHC warned. Inland flooding is a strong possibility, as the Mississippi River system is already running hifh. The  sprawling storm system are already having an effect: New Orleans experienced a flash flood "emergency" on Wednesday after receiving six inches of rain. 

The storm will pass through the center of America's offshore oil and gas industry, and most oil majors - including Chevron, BP, BHP, Shell and Anadarko - have announced plans to evacuate or make staffing adjustments on fixed platforms in the affected area. More shut-ins are expected as the storm forecast firms up and the system's trajectory and strength are better known. Offshore wells account for about 15 percent of American oil production, and on Wednesday, Brent crude prices rose by nearly four percent on news of the storm's potential effects.

About half of America's refining capacity is clustered on the Gulf Coast, along with most of its LNG export capacity, raising the prospect of disruption for petroleum product and gas shipping schedules due to foul weather. During Hurricane Harvey, floodwaters washed tons of silt and debris into the Houston Ship Channel, leading to shoaling and temporary closures.