January 25, 2012 / 7:10 AM / 6 years ago

UPDATE 1-Cyclone forecast shuts some Australian oil production

* Woodside shuts Vincent oil field production

* Apache shuts Van Gogh field, evacuates non-essential personnel

* Oil and gas, iron ore operators say monitoring tropical low

PERTH, Jan 25 (Reuters) - Woodside Petroleum and Apache Corp said on Wednesday they have suspended some oil production off Australia’s northwest coast as a tropical low threatens to develop into a cyclone.

A tropical low currently off the northwest coast could strengthen into a Category 1 cyclone by 1200 GMT (2000 local time) Wednesday and into a Category 2 cyclone late Friday, according to Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology.

Woodside, Australia’s largest oil producer, said it had shut oil production at its Vincent oil field. Apache shut production at its Van Gogh field and evacuated non-essential personnel from its offshore drilling operations.

Cyclones are a regular occurrence during Australian summers and can often force offshore oil and gas platforms to suspend operations and mobile marine units to seek safe harbours until the storms pass.

The cyclone season off Australia’s northwest typically runs from November to April.

Woodside operates several other oil and gas fields in the region, including the ones that feed its North West Shelf liquefied natural gas (LNG) plant on the Pilbara coast.

Apache also has other oil and gas operations in the region, including the Varanus Island gas processing hub which provides about a third of Western Australia’s domestic gas supply. It said production from all its other facilities remained online.

BHP Billiton, which produces both iron ore and oil and gas in the region another producer in the region, and Chevron said they were monitoring the storm.

“We monitor all extreme weather activity closely and shut in operations if we believe that is the safest course of action. We do not intend to give a daily update on the status of all our operations,” BHP said in a statement.

Cyclones in the region can also move inland, disrupting iron ore mining in the Pilbara region. Although the Pilbara region is not in the path of the storm, the weather bureau said it may

“Rainfall is likely to increase later in the week in coastal parts of the Pilbara,” the bureau said.

A spokesman for Rio Tinto, the largest iron ore producer in the region, said the company is monitoring the storm but did not expect any impact from the storm.

The path of the cyclone will steer clear of Port Hedland, the region’s largest iron ore port, but a spokesman for the port said it was also closely watching.

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