Photo: Illustration; Source: Steve Miller

Workers clearing out as Tropical Storm Beta forms in Gulf of Mexico

Offshore workers have started clearing out from Gulf of Mexico platforms as Beta, the 23rd named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season, formed in the Bay of Campeche.

Oil major Shell was forced to evacuate non-essential personnel from its Perdido platform in the western Gulf of Mexico and shut-in its production back on 17 September as a tropical depression formed.

Location of Tropical Storm Beta; Source: National Hurricane Centre
Location of Tropical Storm Beta; Source: National Hurricane Centre

This is something of a roller-coaster ride for Shell. It was forced to evacuate workers from one platform as it was returning to normal production at its Appomatox facility following Hurricane Sally – all on the same day.

According to the National Hurricane Centre’s statement on Monday, tropical storm Beta is scheduled to hit the Texas coast later today and soak the state’s coast for the next week.

Beta, the 23rd named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season, formed in the Bay of Campeche and was forecast to gradually strengthen and soak the Texas coast all week with up to up to 25 centimetres of rain, the National Hurricane Center said.

At the time Shell started evacuating Perdido, BSEE estimates still claimed that 30.69 per cent of the current oil production and 24.73 per cent of the natural gas production in the Gulf of Mexico was shut-in as an effect of Sally.

According to Sunday’s report, 9.69 per cent of the current oil production and 7.72 per cent of the natural gas production in the Gulf of Mexico was shut-in following Sally.

The National Hurricane Centre (NHC) added that the maximum wind forecast for Beta was 120 kph, just above tropical storm intensity. Drier air aloft will limit Beta’s strength and may prevent it from becoming a hurricane, the NHC stated.

Apart from evacuating Perdido, Shell stated it was securing nearby rigs, while Occidental Petroleum stated it was also implementing storm procedures.

Shell said it was removing non-essential employees from its Perdido platform in the western Gulf of Mexico and securing nearby drilling rigs. Occidental Petroleum Corp, which operates in the same area, said it also began implementing storm procedures. BP, Hess, and Murphy Oil told Reuters they were monitoring conditions regarding tropical storm Beta.

If this storm turns into a hurricane it would be the third one to hit the Gulf of Mexico in under a month. For that to happen, it has to reach maximum winds greater than 120 kph on the Saffir-Simpson scale. The two previous hurricanes this month were Hurricane Sally and Hurricane Laura with 170 and 240 kph, respectively.

Beta is the 23rd named storm which is a lot higher than the average of 11 storms per season. The final name on this season’s list was Wilfred, and as the names list was depleted, naming was done using the Greek alphabet.

The Greek alphabet was used only once before and it was in 2005 when one of the storms was Hurricane Katrina. That year, hurricanes named from the Greek alphabet were Alpha and Beta.

It is worth noting that a list of approved hurricane names is cycled through every six years and if one hurricane is particularly deadly or costly the name is often ‘retired’. Such was the case with Katrina which was replaced by the name Katia. There are 88 other names also taken off the list.


Header photo by Steve Miller – used under permission from photographer

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