U.S. Gulf Platforms Prepare for Tropical Storm Cristobal
A tropical storm that is dropping feet of rain in Campeche is expected to turn north across the Gulf of Mexico, triggering response plans from offshore oil and gas operators.
Tropical storm warnings typically lead to shutdowns or reduced manning on platforms in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico. BP, Equinor and Occidental have already said that they plan to remove nonessential workers from several platforms in the storm's path, and Equinor also plans to shut in production aboard its Titan platform if the current forecast holds.
The BP facilities affected include Thunder Horse, Na Kika and Atlantis, where production will be reduced, and Mad Dog, where nonessential employees will be removed.
The severity of Tropical Storm Cristobal at the expected time of its arrival in the U.S. is uncertain, but NOAA's National Hurricane Center said that conditions do not look conducive for strengthening. "There is significant uncertainty as to how strong Cristobal will be when it approaches the northern Gulf coast. This is due to the limitations of predicting tropical cyclone intensity change," NHC said in an advisory. "There is a risk of storm surge, heavy rainfall, and wind impacts beginning over the weekend along portions of the U.S. Gulf Coast from Texas to the Florida Panhandle."
Cristobal is the third named storm of this year's Atlantic hurricane season, and it is the earliest third storm on record. Typically, the third storm of the year occurs in mid-August, according to Accuweather. NOAA predicts an "above-normal" level of activity this season, with 13-19 named storms and six to 10 hurricanes.
Preparations for arrival
At a press conference Wednesday, Louisiana Governor Jon Bel Edwards laid out his state's preparations for the possibility of a severe storm. COVID-19 has complicated planning for major disasters, as large-scale group shelters could be an opportunity for a spreading event. "We do have plans that involve mega shelters as an option and we have prepositioned some tents within the shelters so that people can have an area in the shelter that is sort of self-contained, if necessary," Bel Edwards said. As an alternative, he said, the state could use hotels to provide socially-distanced accommodations.