A tropical depression that formed in the Caribbean has strengthened and been upgraded to Tropical Storm Ida as it moves toward the southeast US. As it passes over the Gulf of Mexico, it is likely to continue strengthening and could become a major hurricane by the time it arrives at the northern Gulf coast on the weekend, if it continues to travel on its current forecast track.
In preparation for the storm, energy companies began on Thursday to evacuate workers from offshore oil platforms in the Gulf of Mexico and move vessels out of the projected storm path.
BP has removed workers from its four offshore platforms, while other oil producers in the region – BHP, Shell and Chevron – have so far evacuated just non-essential workers. BHP said it will fully evacuate its Shenzi production platform and shut-in its production by Friday, Equinor is preparing to move workers off its Titan platform, and Shell is disconnecting and moving its floating production, storage and offloading vessel Turritella. Hess said it will implement precautionary measures for its facilities, if necessary.
On land, ExxonMobil is preparing its 520,000-bpd Baton Rouge, Louisiana refinery for severe weather, while operations at Phillips 66 refineries in Lake Charles and Alliance, Louisiana, “will be adjusted based on the storm’s progression,” said a spokesman.
Jim Foerster, chief meteorologist at DTN, a data and analytics firm that advises oil and transportation companies, said the warmer-than-normal waters off Louisiana could cause the storm to drop heavy rain when it arrives onshore, potentially leading to flooding in the region.