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Australian Cyclone Intensifies, Halts Oil Production

A tropical cyclone that forced oil and mining companies to suspend projects in Western Australia is expected to intensify today as it moves west along the Pilbara coast, the country’s Bureau of Meteorology said.

“Very destructive” winds with gusts as strong as 200 kilometers (124 miles) an hour are possible between the towns of Onslow and Exmouth if the category three cyclone gets closer to the coast, the bureau said on its website.

Chevron Corp., Santos Ltd., Woodside Petroleum Ltd. and Apache Corp. reported disruptions to oil output because of Cyclone Bianca. Chevron, the second-largest U.S. oil company, said yesterday it halted some output at its Barrow Island and Thevenard Island fields off northwest Australia.

Woodside, Australia’s second-biggest oil producer, shut production at the Enfield oil venture 50 kilometers northwest of Exmouth, Laura Hammer, a spokeswoman for the company in Perth, said in an e-mail today. Woodside suspended output at its Cossack Pioneer oil facility, she said Jan. 25.

Rio Tinto Group, the world’s third-largest mining company, said most of its coastal iron ore operations are expected to resume during the next 24 hours after being suspended yesterday, the London-based company said in an e-mailed statement today.

Apache Corp. said in a statement on its website yesterday that production had been shut at the Stag oil field and the BHP Billiton Ltd.-operated Pyrenees floating production, storage and offloading vessel due to the cyclone.

Repairs to the Van Gogh oil field facility are expected to be finished by the end of the first week of February, with output to begin “soon afterwards,” Apache said.

Santos, Australia’s third-largest oil producer, moved its Mutineer-Exeter platform as it halted output at the site in the Carnarvon Basin, Matthew Doman, a spokesman, said yesterday from Adelaide. The status hasn’t changed, Doman said today.

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