Cyclone forms off Australia, oil drillers on watch
A powerful category-three cyclone has formed off the northwest coast of Australia and is likely to move south or southeast, potentially threatening production at some offshore oil fields.
Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology said on Wednesday that tropical Cyclone Pancho was located 1,208 km (750 miles) west of the Exmouth region at 4 p.m. local time and warned of winds above 55 knots with “very high to phenomenal seas.” But the cyclone is not expected to affect the Western Australian coastline in the next 48 hours, the bureau said.
Woodside Petroleum Ltd, which operates a liquefied natural gas (LNG) project as well as some major oil fields off northwest Australia, said it was keeping a close eye on the storm but was continuing normal operations at all fields for now.
Chevron also said it was monitoring the storm but has not shut down any operations.
No oil firms have reported shutdowns yet.
Tropical cyclones typically batter the region between November and April, forcing offshore oil drillers as well as miners, such as Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton Ltd/Plc to suspend operations and evacuate staff.
Last month, a powerful cyclone forced oil companies, including Apache Corp, Woodside and BHP to shut over 220,000 barrels a day of oil production, about 40 percent of Australia’s output, for nearly a week.