Tropical Cyclone Laila Churns Across Bay of Bengal Toward India East Coast

Tropical cyclone Laila churned across the Bay of Bengal, the site of India’s biggest natural gas field, and was forecast to reach hurricane strength before making landfall late on May 20 in Andhra Pradesh on the east coast.

The cyclone, packing sustained winds of 65 kilometers (40 miles) an hour, was about 650 kilometers east of Chennai at 5:30 a.m. local time, the U.S. Navy Joint Typhoon Warning Center said. Waves were 3.7 meters (12 feet) high near the storm’s eye, where winds were gusting to 83 kilometers per hour.

The cyclone was moving west-northwest at 17 kilometers per hour and its winds were forecast to reach hurricane strength from tomorrow, with gusts as high as 185 kilometers an hour as it approaches the coast. Reliance Industries Ltd. and Cairn India Ltd. operate offshore oil and gas fields while refiners including Hindustan Petroleum Corp. own plants on the coast.

Reliance Industries, India’s biggest company by market value, produces gas from the field located in the Krishna Godavari basin. Output from the KG-D6 field is sold to power stations and fertilizer plants, offsetting imports of liquefied natural gas.

“We are monitoring the situation closely and are in a state of preparation to address any adverse developments across all our operations along the east coast,” Reliance said in an e-mailed statement. “Operations at the oil and gas producing facilities at KG-D6 are continuing normally.”

Refineries Protected

Hindustan Petroleum owns a 152,000 barrel-a-day refinery in Visakhapatnam, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

“It is a cyclone-prone area and there are at least one or two every year,” K. Murali, director of refineries at Hindustan Petroleum, said by telephone today. “A storm has never affected production at our refinery. It can withstand any storm.”

Chennai Petroleum Corp. has two refineries with a total capacity of 210,000 barrels a day in Tamil Nadu, according to Bloomberg data.

“Our refineries are fully protected and production won’t be affected at all,” N.C. Sridharan, Chennai Petroleum’s director of finance, said by telephone when asked to comment on steps being taken to deal with the tropical cyclone.

Manu Kapoor, a spokesman for Cairn India, which operates an oil-producing field in the Krishna-Godavari basin, didn’t immediately reply to phone calls or e-mails.

Cyclone Laila may bring heavy rainfall along the coast of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh states today, the India Meteorological Department said in a statement on its website. Fishermen in the area have been advised not to go to sea, according to the statement.

The weather office predicted the cyclone will intensify and move in a west-northwesterly direction and then head north toward the Andhra Pradesh coast during the next 72 hours.

India is regularly buffeted by cyclones that form in the Bay of Bengal between April and November, bringing destruction and flooding to coastal communities. Tropical Cyclone Aila left 169 people dead and affected more than 7.7 million people in India and Bangladesh last May.

To contact the reporters on this story: Stuart Biggs in Tokyo at sbiggs3@bloomberg.net; Rakteem Katakey in New Delhi at rkatakey@bloomberg.net.

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