Byron evacuates as US Gulf braces for double hurricane hit

AUSTRALIAN-listed oil and gas explorer Byron Energy has begun drilling a new production well at its South Marsh Island 58 project in the US Gulf of Mexico but was shortly forced to suspend its operations due to two major hurricanes in the region.
Byron evacuates as US Gulf braces for double hurricane hit Byron evacuates as US Gulf braces for double hurricane hit Byron evacuates as US Gulf braces for double hurricane hit Byron evacuates as US Gulf braces for double hurricane hit Byron evacuates as US Gulf braces for double hurricane hit

Paul Hunt

Senior Journalist: Oil & Gas, Policy.

Paul Hunt

Byron is one of only a few Australian companies to operate in the offshore US Gulf of Mexico, and holds a swathe of nearshore and offshore production licenses. 

Last month Byron celebrated the delivery and installation of its South Marsh Island 58 platform and began drilling its SM58-G2 production well offshore.  

The SM58-G2 well was drilled to 4000 feet with casing run and successfully cemented into place. However, plans to continue drilling the well to a total depth of 11,500 feet have been delayed as two hurricanes are set to hit the Gulf. 

Over the weekend two separate tropical storms advanced across the Caribbean and began strengthening into hurricanes, in a first for the region. 

 

 

Due to the storm forecasts, Byron has abandoned its plans to continue drilling its SM58-G2 well until the hurricanes pass. All personnel have been evacuated to shore. 

The SM58-G2 well is targeting the Lower O Sand where strong mudlog shows were observed over 180 ft. 

While the completion of the well has been delayed, Byron noted in a release to shareholders today that it had laid and buried all its oil and gas pipelines connecting its new SM58 platform to sales pipelines. There is some work that needs to be completed which involves divers, but this will now have to wait until the hurricanes pass. 

Byron chief executive Maynard Smith said the company was doing "everything we can" to minimise interruption, but that safety was the number one priority.

"It is unfortunate that we have to evacuate the rig, but we are at the point in the SM58-G2 well where it can be accomplished safely and smoothly," Smith said. 

"It is very unusual to potentially have two hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico at the same time and our drilling and production teams have done an excellent job in reacting to this unique situation."

According to Smith the company remained on-track, despite the delay, to start up production from the SM58 field in early September. 

The company's other offshore asset, in the South Marsh 71 field, which includes a manned [platform has also been suspended with personnel evacuated due to the storms. 

Byron operates the SM71 field and holds a 50% interest in the project alongside fellow ASX-lister Otto Energy (50%). 

The field was shut in overnight until it is safe to return and restore production to current levels.

Byron Energy shares were up slightly this morning, by 2% at 24.5 cents, giving the company a market cap of $250 million.