Cyclone Bears Down on Australia’s Ore, Oil Region, Shuts Ports
Tropical Cyclone Carlos, bearing down on Australia’s iron ore, oil and gas producing Pilbara region, has shut ports used by BHP Billiton Ltd. and Rio Tinto Group and oil fields operated by Woodside Petroleum Ltd.
Carlos, which earlier brought heavy rain to the city of Darwin, may strengthen to a Category Two cyclone from Category One at 5 a.m. local time tomorrow, according to the Bureau of Meteorology. Ships are being sent out to sea, Port Hedland Port Authority Harbor Master Lindsay Copeman said by phone. The port will be closed by 4 p.m.
A La Nina weather system may boost the number of tropical storms in Australia, the bureau said this month. The cyclone season typically runs from November to April. Cyclones sometimes disrupt mining production in Pilbara, the home of 12 iron ore mines operated by Rio and seven by BHP.
Winds stronger than 125 kilometers (77 miles) an hour may strike the coast of the region, the bureau said, as another storm further to the south, Cyclone Dianne, may cause flooding in the Goldfields region. Rio Tinto, the world’s second-largest iron-ore exporter, closed its operations at the port of Dampier in Pilbara today.
“Rio Tinto iron ore will review the impact on stock levels and shipping schedules as a result of the conditions,” the London-based company said in an e-mailed statement today. It had earlier suspended iron ore train services to Dampier on Feb. 17 after a derailment, the company said. Iron ore output in the current quarter will be reduced by the weather, it said.
BHP, the world’s largest mining company, “is closely monitoring the situation,” Fiona Martin, a spokeswoman for the Melbourne-based producer, said today, declining to provide any further information.
“Any significant impact as a result of wet weather will be included in the company’s next quarterly production report,” she said. BHP and Fortescue Metals Group Ltd. both ship iron ore out of Port Hedland. Fortescue is following Port Hedland Port Authority’s orders, it said.
Woodside Petroleum Ltd. shut its Cossack Pioneer field on the North West Shelf early today because of Cyclone Carlos, Laura Hammer, a Perth-based spokeswoman, said in an e-mailed statement. The Enfield project remains shut after halting output on Feb. 16 in response to cyclone Dianne, she said.
Apache Corp. is evacuating non-essential staff from the Varanus Island gas plant and has shut production at oil fields because of the approaching storm, Perth-based spokesman David Parker said by telephone. Output is shut at the Stag field and personnel are leaving the platform, he said. The Dampier Spirit floating production, storage and offloading vessel, also known as an FPSO, will depart the field today, he said.
Production is shut at the Van Gogh field, from where the Ningaloo Vision FPSO vessel will sail “this evening,” Parker said. Gas processing continues at the Varanus Island facility, he said.
Tropical Cyclone Dianne, which threatened Western Australia last week, is moving further offshore and no longer poses a threat to coastal communities, the bureau said today. There may be flooding in the state’s Goldfields region over the next two days. St Barbara Ltd. has interrupted operations at its Gwalia mine and may resume within a week, it said today.
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