Cyclone brews off west Australian oil region



PERTH (Reuters) – A tropical low that has formed on the remote west Australian coast on Monday may develop into a cyclone, the country’s Bureau of Meteorology said on Monday, in a potential threat to some offshore oil and gas fields.


A tropical low formed about 205 km (127 miles) north of Karratha at 9 a.m. local time and may turn into a cyclone later on Monday as it moves southwest to the west Pilbara coast, the bureau said, forecasting gales with wind gusts of up to 100 kph.


Karratha is home to some of Australia’s largest oil and gas projects, among them the onshore North West Shelf liquefied natural gas (LNG) processing plant and several offshore production sites, located about 135 km northwest of Karratha.


Tropical cyclones typically batter the region between November and April, forcing offshore oil drillers as well as miners, such as Rio Tinto (RIO.L)(RIO.AX) and BHP Billiton Ltd/Plc (BHP.AX)BHP.L, to suspend operations and evacuate staff.


A cyclone would be the season’s third, following Tropical Cyclones Billy and Anika. Billy, the second cyclone of the season, forced the shut-in of several oil and gas operations for nearly a week.


(Reporting by Fayen Wong; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)


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