Australian Energy and Iron-Ore Firms Prepare for Storm

From Wall Street Journal

Iron-ore exporters and energy producers in Western Australia state are taking precautions ahead of Tropical Cyclone Narelle, which is expected to sweep over parts of the resource-rich Pilbara region by the weekend.

The cyclone, intensifying as it moves south-southwest toward Australia’s northwestern shoreline, has already halted iron-ore loading at some ports and may threaten offshore oil and gas facilities over the next few days.

Rio Tinto PLC, Australia’s biggest iron-ore exporter, has suspended loading of iron ore at its Dampier and Cape Lambert ports due to rough seas, the global miner said in a statement.

Other operations, including mining and rail movements, haven’t been interrupted, a Rio Tinto spokesman said.

U.S. energy group Apache Corp. APA +0.41% has begun preparing for the expected passage of Narelle close to its oil and gas facilities over the next few days, it said.

“The Stag and Van Gogh oil fields are moving to shut-in, while production is continuing from the Varanus Island and Devil Creek gas hubs,” an Apache spokesman said.

The company is also evacuating nonessential personnel from offshore operations, including Varanus Island, he said.

Chevron Corp. CVX +0.67% is taking precautions to secure its construction site at Barrow Island, where it is planning the 52 billion-Australian-dollar Gorgon gas-export project, the U.S. company said.

“Personnel not required to close down or re-establish the site prior and following the cyclone are being demobilized,” a Chevron spokeswoman said.

Oil and gas producer Woodside Petroleum Ltd. WPL.AU -0.20% is moving to safeguard its people and assets in response to Narelle, a spokeswoman said.

Woodside operates the North West Shelf and Pluto gas-export facilities at Karratha, alongside several offshore oil and gas operations.

BHP Billiton Ltd., BHP.AU -0.45% which has major iron-ore and petroleum assets in the Pilbara region, said it is monitoring the situation.

As of midafternoon Perth time, Cyclone Narelle was estimated to be around 610 kilometers north-northwest of Karratha and moving south southwest at 19 kilometers an hour.

Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology warned that gusts of up to 100 kilometers an hour are expected in coastal areas, including Karratha, on Friday.

Wind gusts of over 130 kilometers an hour are possible on the coast overnight Saturday, the bureau said, while very destructive winds with gusts up to 250 kilometers an hour are possible near the cyclone’s center.

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