Australian Cyclone Bianca Halts Pilbara Iron Ore Operations
"Tropical Cyclone Bianca in Australia moved rapidly along the Pilbara coast, halting work on iron ore and petroleum projects and closing key ports," according to The Wall Street Journal.
The article reported "Workers building Chevron's $43 billion Gorgon gas plant were evacuated amid forecasts the cyclone would smash directly into the massive construction site on Barrow Island, which lies 50km off Western Australia's Pilbara coast…
Other companies affected, or potentially affected, by the destructive 160km/h winds include BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto, Woodside Petroleum, Fortescue Metals Group, Santos and Apache.
Australia's biggest commodity ports, at Dampier, Port Hedland and Cape Lambert, suspended loading ships yesterday.
Dampier and Port Hedland account for about one-third of global iron ore exports. Last night, Bianca -- the first cyclone in what is expected to be a severe season in Australia's northwest -- was moving west/southwest and was estimated to be 110km northwest of Port Hedland and 205km northeast of Karratha.
The Bureau of Meteorology said Bianca was continuing to develop as it moved "quickly", parallel to the Pilbara coast. 'The cyclone is expected to continue to intensify overnight and on Thursday,' the bureau said.
A Rio spokesman said rail activity at its massive Pilbara iron ore operations had been suspended and exports from the Dampier and Cape Lambert ports was halted. The global miner suspended operations at its coastal Dampier Salt project but its inland iron ore mines would continue to operate normally.
Fortescue said it had stopped all rail and port activities although there was no impact on its inland iron ore mines at Cloudbreak, Christmas Creek and Solomon. But the miner, which came under scrutiny when two of its Pilbara contractors were killed during Cyclone George in 2008, said it would continue to monitor the cyclone's path.
BHP could not be reached for comment.
The cyclone has closed down several oil and gas facilities off the Pilbara coast. A Woodside spokeswoman said it had shut-in production from the Cossack Pioneer oil facility on the North West Shelf.
The Perth-based group had also been forced to shut-in production from the Enfield oil field off the coast of Exmouth, where winds are forecast to be particularly destructive today.
Chevron said it had stopped oil production at its Barrow Island and Thevenard Islands fields 'as a precautionary measure'.
'This includes the evacuation of non-essential workers and the tying down of equipment to secure sites,' it said.
'Production is being shut-in and wells secured.'
Santos's Mutineer-Exeter floating storage and offloading facility left its location on Tuesday and was sailing out to sea to avoid the cyclone.
Santos operates Mutineer-Exeter with a share of 33.4 per cent.
US energy company Apache Corporation reportedly shut in its Stag oil field and was evacuating staff from its offshore facilities and drilling operations."