Tropical storm Alex strengthens, likely to delay oil spill recovery efforts
Tropical Storm Alex was set to strengthen into a hurricane on Tuesday, delaying BP Plc's efforts to increase siphoning capacity at the gushing oil well in the Gulf of Mexico where some companies evacuated workers.
Alex was forecast to move slowly away from the Yucatan Peninsula over southern Gulf waters and curl northwest away from major oil-extraction facilities to make a second landfall in northern Mexico mid-week.
It is not expected to hurt oil capture systems at the BP oil spill or the company's plans to drill a pair of relief wells intended to plug the leak by August, a BP executive told reporters in Houston.
But waves as high as 12 feet would delay this week's plans to hook up a third system to capture much more oil, said Kent Wells, BP executive vice president.
As a precautionary measure, Shell Oil Co, Exxon Mobil Corp, Anadarko Petroleum Corp and Apache Corp evacuated nonessential workers from platforms near Alex's path. Shell also shut subsea production at the Auger and Brutus platforms over the weekend.
Traders and brokers kept a close eye on Alex, but oil prices fell toward $78 per barrel on Monday as most forecasters predicted the storm would pass southwest of major U.S. offshore oil and gas installations in the Gulf of Mexico.
A hurricane warning has been issued for the coast of Texas south of Baffin Bay to the mouth of the Rio Grande, and along the coast of Mexico from the Rio Grande to La Cruz. The warning means that hurricane conditions are expected somewhere in the warning area. The center warned that "preparations to protect life and property should be rushed to completion."
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