Oct. 9 (UPI) -- BP has shut production at four platforms located near the potential path of Hurricane Michael, and Equinor and ExxonMobil cut staff to a minimum and evacuated rigs, as it moves into the northern Gulf of Mexico with an expected Wednesday landfall.
While most of the rigs in Gulf of Mexico deepwaters, and their output, were expected to be unaffected by Michael, drillers were taking precaution anyway.
"BP is in the process of evacuating personnel and has shut in production at BP's four operated platforms, Atlantis, Mad Dog, Na Kika and Thunder Horse," according to a statement from BP. "Rigs are also preparing for storm evasion as necessary."
BP, which is also preparing "for storm evasion as necessary," will not redeploy personnel and resume operations until conditions become safe again, company officials added.
The company, with four large production facilities and drilling rigs in the Gulf of Mexico, is one of the industry's largest leaseholders and a leading producer of oil and natural gas.
ExxonMobil spokeswoman Julie King told UPI that the impact to production is so far "minimal" as it also prepares for Michael.
"We will have minimal staffing at our Mobile Bay operations, and are evacuating personnel from the Lena platform, which is in decommissioning," King said.
Decommissioning in the offshore industry means that the structure is being removed by plugging the hole that had been used for drilling and removing all equipment. Exxon awarded the decommissioning of Lena in September in a project that will last until 2021.
Equinor spokesman Erik Haaland told UPI that the company "has evacuated personnel from our Titan facility as a precautionary measure due to Hurricane Michael."
The company, formerly known as Statoil and based in Norway, operates nine U.S. offshore fields, in addition to other onshore operations in the country and in multiple other locations worldwide.
As of early Tuesday, meteorologists expected Michael to gain strength and land in the northern Gulf of Florida as soon as Wednesday as a category 3 hurricane.
A hurricane warning was issued for the upper Florida coastline while the Alabama coast was under a hurricane watch. However, storm surge watches and warnings extended further east because of "remaining uncertainties in Michael's exact strength and track."
While the Gulf of Florida deepwaters make up a major region for hydrocarbon production, and the Gulf Coast contains nearly half of U.S. refining capacity, a map published by the U.S. Energy Information Administration shows the likely path of Michael does not appear to make it a major threat.