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Tropical Cyclone Lua shuts Australian oil fields

Wed, 14th Mar 2012 04:28

* Woodside, Apache shut some oil fields

* Cyclone off northwest co
ast headed toward Pilbara coast

March 14 (Reuters) - Woodside Petroleum and Apache Corp said on Wednesday they had shut several of their oil fields off Australia's northwest coast as Tropical Cyclone Lua approached.

Australia's Woodside halted production at six oil fields, including its Vincent and Enfield oil fields and Cossack, Wanaea, Lambert and Hermes oil fields on the North West Shelf, the company said.

Apache Corp shut oil production at its Stag field and was evacuating non-essential personnel from its Varanus Island natural gas processing facility.

Woodside's Vincent and Enfield produce an average of around 24,250 barrels per day (bpd) and 11,770 bpd, respectively, while the company's North West Shelf fields produce around 5,500 bpd, according to the latest production report.

Apache's Stag oil field produces about 8,800 barrels of oil per day.

At 8 a.m. WST Tropical Cyclone Lua, category 1 was about 610 kilometres northwest of the coastal town of Karratha, moving northwest at 20 kilometers per hour away from the coast, Australia's bureau of meteorology said.

But Lua is likely swing back toward the coast by Thursday morning, as it strengthens to a Category 2 cyclone, and head southeast toward the east Pilbara coast, reaching Category 3, the bureau added.

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.

Cyclones in the region can also move inland, disrupting iron ore mining in the Pilbara besides shutting local ports that ship iron ore.

A spokesman for Port Hedland, the largest iron ore export port in the country, was not immediately available to comment.

BHP Billiton, which operates both iron ore and oil projects in northwest Australia, said it was monitoring the weather.

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

(Reporting by Nallur Sethuraman in Bangalore and Rebekah Kebede in Perth;Editing by Clarence Fernandez) Keywords: AUSTRALIA/CYCLONE

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The copying, republication or redistribution of Reuters News Content, including by framing or similar means, is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Thomson Reuters.

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