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Gulf Low-Pressure System Little Threat to Energy Areas

A low-pressure system drifting in the western Gulf of Mexico will probably have little impact on offshore energy rigs and platforms, some of which have evacuated non-essential personnel.

The system has a 30 percent chance of organizing into a tropical depression or storm in the next two days, down from 50 percent earlier, the National Hurricane Center in Miami said in a weather outlook before 2 p.m. New York time today.

“I hate to say zero, but it is a very, very low threat to production regions except for gusty winds and rain,” said Phil Vida, an operational meteorologist at MDA Weather Services in Gaithersburg, Maryland.

The Gulf is home to about 6 percent of U.S. natural gas output, 23 percent of oil production and at least 45 percent of petroleum-refining capacity, according to the Energy Department.

Enbridge Inc.’s Manta Ray offshore natural gas gathering company evacuated non-essential personnel from two platforms off Louisiana on Aug. 14. Marathon Oil Corp. pulled some workers from its Ewing Bank platform in the Gulf yesterday.

BP Plc began removing non-essential workers from four offshore platforms yesterday and drilling rigs contracted by the company halted operations. Production at all platforms “remains online,” the company said on its website.

Vida said he would “be shocked” if any company removed workers vital to operations.

Misshapen System

Satellite images show the system is being stretched out, an indication of wind shear that may keep it from growing stronger, said Mark Paquette, a meteorologist at AccuWeather Inc. in State College, Pennsylvania.

“Conditions over the Gulf of Mexico are not favorable,” Paquette said by telephone.

Because the storm has no real center, its path won’t be easy to predict, Vida said. Both he and Paquette said the main threat from the storm will probably be heavy rain for the Southeast, including Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina.

“Much of the Southeast has seen more than enough rain through the early part of this summer,” Paquette said. “They are trying to give their rain away and they can’t.”

The hurricane center is also tracking Tropical Storm Erin, which was about 815 miles (1,311 kilometers) west of the Cape Verde Islands as of 11 a.m. New York time today. Erin strengthened from a tropical depression yesterday and is expected to weaken beginning tomorrow.

A depression is the weakest form of tropical system. A storm gets a name when its winds reach 39 miles (63 kilometers) per hour. When maximum sustained winds reach at least 74 mph, a system is classified as a hurricane according to the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale.

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