(Releads, updates with cyclone's progress, comments from BHP,
By Fayen Wong
PERTH Jan 27 A cyclone off western Australia
has shut down nearly half of the country's oil output and
disrupted iron ore shipments, but some operators said output
was likely to resume by Wednesday as the storm rapidly weakens.
Oil and gas firms operating off Australia's northwest
coast, including Woodside Petroleum Ltd (WPL.AX), BHP Billiton
Ltd (BHP.AX)(BLT.L), Santos Ltd (STO.AX) and Apache Corp
(APA.N), have in total suspended 218,000 barrels per day (bpd)
of oil production since Sunday -- accounting for about 45
percent of Australia's daily oil output.
The storm also forced miner Rio Tinto Group/Plc
(RIO.AX)(RIO.L) to halt iron ore loading at Port Dampier over
the weekend, although the firm said it expects to resume
operations on Wednesday.
By 0340 GMT, Cyclone Dominic had weakened to become a
category 1 storm, the Bureau of Meteorology said on its
website. Wind gusts near the centre of the storm were about 100
kilometres per hour (kph), down from around 135 kph at its
"Dominic is rapidly weakening as it moves further inland
... The system is expected to weaken below cyclone intensity in
the next three to six hours," the bureau said.
The region is home to some of Australia's largest oil and
gas projects, among them the North West Shelf liquefied natural
gas (LNG) project. Port Dampier is one of the world's largest
iron ore loading terminals, with an annual capacity of about
140 million tonnes.
BHP said it shut down its key Stybarrow oilfield on Monday
morning. Woodside has a 50-percent stake in the field, which
produced 53,000 bpd in the last quarter.
A floating production vessel at the 8,000 bpd Griffin oil
field was also disconnected on Sunday, BHP said, adding that
the timing of a restart of the oilfields will depend on the
progress of the storm.
Woodside has temporarily shut production at its Enfield and
Vincent oilfields, which have a combined output of 78,000 bpd.
Production at the Woodside-operated North West Shelf LNG
venture has also been disrupted with the 52,000 bpd Cossack
Pioneer oilfield and the Angel gas platform shut down.
Santos said its 14,000 bpd Mutineer-Exeter project was shut
in on Sunday afternoon, while Apache suspended production at
its Stag and Ocean Legendre oil fields that have a combined
output of 13,200 bpd. Both firms expect operations to resume by
Apache said it had evacuated non-essential personnel from
the Varanus Island gas processing hub, and while gas output has
not been affected, the move will have some impact on the repair
work to bring the plant back to full capacity following an
explosion last year.
The cyclone is the third of the season, which normally runs
from December to April. The previous cyclone, Billy, forced the
shutdown of several oil and gas operations for nearly a week
late in December.
For a factbox on operations affected by the cyclone, please
click on [ID:nSYD36663]
(Editing by Kim Coghill)
(Additional reporting by James Regan)