By ANGEL GONZALEZ
HOUSTON -- Oil and gas producers in the US Gulf of Mexico moved to re-staff their offshore operations and restart disrupted output Monday, as a weakening Tropical Storm Debby turned toward the western Florida coast.
The National Hurricane Center said that Debby, the fourth named storm of the 2012 Atlantic hurricane season, was a "little weaker" as it moved slowly toward the Florida Coast.
BP, the largest oil and gas producer in the Gulf, said that, because the latest forecast showed a steady decline in strength, "we will begin today redeploying personnel to certain BP-operated offshore facilities."
The re-staffing process will begin with the western-most facilities operated by BP and "continue in the coming days," the company said in its hurricane hotline.
The UK oil giant, which in 2010 produced 410,000 bbl of oil equivalent of oil and gas in the area, had said earlier that its entire production in the Gulf would be shut in by mid-Sunday.
Royal Dutch Shell said Monday it had begun redeploying staff to its operations in the Gulf of Mexico as Tropical Storm Debby appears to head away from offshore oil-production facilities and toward Florida.
"Shell is in the initial stages of redeploying staff to its operations across the Gulf," Shell said.
Only two non-producing platforms were fully evacuated, the company said in a posting on its website.
Restart has begun of a "minimal" amount of oil and gas production that was shut in and all operations will be "back to normal" by the end of Tuesday, the company said.
Anadarko Petroleum said it believes conditions allow for a safe return of essential workers to its Marco Polo and Constitution platforms in the central part of the Gulf, "with plans to restart production at these facilities following comprehensive inspections."
The company said it expects to re-staff the Independence Hub and Neptune platforms with essential personnel Monday afternoon.
ExxonMobil said its Gulf of Mexico offshore operations and coastal facilities "are resuming normal operations."
"Operations crews are returning to facilities that were evacuated in advance of the storm," an Exxon spokesman said in an email.
On Sunday, Exxon had said it had shut in less than 1,000 bpd of oil and seven million cubic feet/day of natural gas.
The National Hurricane Center said the center of the storm was about 75 miles south of Apalachicola, with maximum sustained winds of 45 miles/hour.
Dow Jones Newswires