Seattle Post Intelligencer: Chevron, Shell Oil evacuating Gulf rigs: “Chevron Corp. and Shell Oil began evacuating employees from offshore oil and gas platforms and drilling rigs as Tropical Storm Rita churned Monday toward the Gulf of Mexico and threatened to compound the damage left by Hurricane Katrina.”: Posted Tuesday 20 Sept 2005
By DAVID KOENIG
AP BUSINESS WRITER
DALLAS -- Chevron Corp. and Shell Oil began evacuating employees from offshore oil and gas platforms and drilling rigs as Tropical Storm Rita churned Monday toward the Gulf of Mexico and threatened to compound the damage left by Hurricane Katrina.
Shell Oil said it removed 195 nonessential employees Sunday and planned to take away 350 more on Monday.
Chevron did not disclose the number of employees and contractors it evacuated. It removed 2,100 workers ahead of Hurricane Katrina. Chevron and Shell Oil, a subsidiary of Royal Dutch/Shell Group, are two of the biggest producers in the Gulf.
Other companies, including Marathon Oil Corp., were watching the storm's track but had not yet begun evacuations.
The federal Minerals Management Service said Monday afternoon that five drilling rigs had been evacuated, up from two on Friday, for a total 3.7 percent of the 134 rigs operating in the Gulf.
Rigs are tethered to the Gulf floor and not as secure in storms. As a result, they are generally evacuated before the more-stable platforms, where oil is produced.
The agency said Monday afternoon that 83 platforms had been evacuated, almost all of them near New Orleans, equal to more than 10 percent of manned platforms, but that those had been unoccupied since Hurricane Katrina.
About 56 percent of the Gulf's oil production remained out of operation Monday, reflecting damage in the Gulf and on shore from Katrina. About one-third of the Gulf's gas production was also out, the agency said. Those figures were barely changed from Friday.
Oil and gas companies in the Gulf study weather forecasts and must decide, often days in advance, whether to organize evacuation efforts involving helicopters and boats.
"These storms are pretty big and broad sometimes, so you take no chances," said Chevron spokesman Mickey Driver. "This is standard operating procedure when storms like Rita appear."
Rita was spinning near Florida, and its predicted path through the Gulf could delay repair work being done on rigs and platforms damaged by Katrina.
Paul Weeditz of Marathon said repair crews at three platforms in the South Pass area, in the center of the Gulf, were knocked out by Katrina might have to be evacuated as Rita moves closer. The Houston-based company, which has one other platform, said it had not yet been evacuated.
Weeditz said Katrina had not changed Marathon's threshold for removing employees.
"All these storms are looked at very carefully," he said. "We're not going to leave anything to chance. We are going to do what has to be done to protect our people and contractors and assets."
Shares of Chevron rose 83 cents to $64.21 in afternoon trading on the New York Stock Exchange; Class A U.S. shares of Royal Dutch/Shell rose 49 cents to $66.27, and shares of Marathon rose $1.25 to $69.25.
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