Tropical Storm Debby Strengthens

Anadarko Petroleum Corp., BP Plc and other oil and gas companies curtailed production in the Gulf of Mexico today as a weather system strengthened into Tropical Storm Debby, the fourth named storm of the year.

June 23 (Bloomberg) -- Anadarko Petroleum Corp., BP Plc and other oil and gas companies curtailed production in the Gulf of Mexico today as a weather system strengthened into Tropical Storm Debby, the fourth named storm of the year.

This NOAA satellite image taken Saturday, June 23, 2012, shows shower and thunderstorm activity developing around an area of low pressure spinning in the Gulf of Mexico. Tropical Storm Debby has formed in the Gulf of Mexico and forecasters say it will bring rain to the Gulf coast from southern Louisiana to the Florida Panhandle.

The U.S. Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement said 7.8 percent of oil production and 8.2 percent of natural gas production in the Gulf has been halted. Anadarko stopped production at four platforms, and BP started shutting some oil and natural-gas wells. Apache Corp. and two other companies began evacuating non-essential workers from some Gulf facilities.

Debby was nearly stationary at 8 p.m. New York time with maximum sustained winds of 50 miles (80 kilometers) per hour, according to the National Hurricane Center. The projected path of the storm has it headed toward the Louisiana coastline, west of New Orleans, as early as Monday afternoon, and then moving west along the Gulf Coast toward Texas.

“We do have it strengthening, and it certainly can’t be ruled out that it will reach hurricane strength, but right now all we’re projecting is a tropical storm,” Dennis Feltgen, a spokesman for the hurricane center in Miami, said in a telephone interview.

The Gulf of Mexico is home to 6.5 percent of U.S. natural gas production, 29 percent of oil output and 40 percent of refining capacity. Offshore oil and natural gas platforms need to carry out evacuations well in advance of a storm’s arrival, so any system in the Gulf can cause production disruptions.

BP, Apache, Chevron

BP, Apache and Chevron Corp. said on their websites that they began evacuating non-essential personnel from some Gulf facilities today. ConocoPhillips said it’s evacuating non- essential employees from its Magnolia platform.

BP Plc began shutting some oil and natural-gas wells in the Gulf of Mexico as the company evacuated workers and contractors from offshore platforms and drilling rigs in the expected path of Debby, Brett Clanton, a Houston-based spokesman for BP, commented in an e-mailed statement.

Anadarko halted production at its Neptune, Independence Hub, Constitution and Marco Polo facilities in the eastern and central Gulf of Mexico, the company said on its website. The company will evacuate all employees from the platforms, it said.

Shutdowns, Evacuations

BHP Billiton Ltd. yesterday shut the Neptune and Shenzi platforms, which can together produce 150,000 barrels of oil a day and 100 million cubic feet of gas. Murphy Oil Corp. began evacuating non-essential workers yesterday, as did Anadarko, Marathon Oil Corp., Nexen Inc., Enterprise Products Partners LP and Hess Corp.

Royal Dutch Shell Plc may evacuate some non-essential workers from central and western Gulf rigs in the next few days, the company said on its website.

In addition, ERA Helicopters LLC of St. Charles, Louisiana, reported it’s ferrying workers from off-shore platforms. Melanie Landry, a spokeswoman for ERA, declined to comment on which companies had called for evacuations.

Jim Rouiller, senior energy meteorologist at Planalytics Inc. in Berwyn, Pennsylvania, said this is the first real threat of the year in the Gulf of Mexico and with the relatively mild start to summer, “This will get the traders looking and saying, ‘Hey, we got something ominous for the Gulf.”’

Wind Shear

Wind shear in the Gulf is pushing most of Debby’s wind speed and thunderstorms to its eastern edge, said Mike Pigott, a senior meteorologist with State College, Pennsylvania-based AccuWeather Inc.

“As long as it remains over the open, warm waters of the Gulf, it could continue to gain strength,” he said. “If the shear relaxes, it could become a hurricane before reaching Texas.”

A storm gets a name when its winds reach 39 miles per hour, and becomes a hurricane at 73 miles per hour.

Debby is the fourth storm of the Atlantic hurricane season, which runs from June 1 to Nov. 30. It’s first time since record- keeping began in 1851 that four storms have formed in the Atlantic before July 1, Feltgen said.

“This is the seventh Atlantic season in recorded history where three storms have formed before July 1,” Feltgen said. “We have never gone with four storms before July 1.”