October 16, 2005

Tropical depression 24 takes aim at Gulf of Mexico

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - A tropical depression in the
Caribbean Sea is expected to strengthen into a named storm
later on Monday and could move into the oil-rich Gulf of Mexico
by the end of the week, the U.S. National Hurricane Center

Tropical Depression 24, located roughly 155 miles southeast
of Grand Cayman, is packing maximum sustained winds near 35
miles per hour (55 kmh), and is on a course that will put it in
the southeastern Gulf of Mexico by Friday.

But "steering currents remain weak and some erratic motion
is possible during the next day or two," the National Hurricane
Center said in a report on its Web site

The Gulf of Mexico is home to more than 25 percent of the
nation's domestic crude and natural gas output.

"The depression is expected to become a tropical storm on
Monday. If and when it does so it will tie the record of 21
named storms set in 1933," the NHC said.

Hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico have sharply curtailed oil
and gas production from the region since late August, bringing
total U.S. oil production in September to its lowest since
World War II, the Department of Energy said.

As of Friday, some 67 percent of U.S. oil production from
the region remained shut in the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina
and Rita, along with 56 percent of the region's natural gas
output, the Minerals Management Service said.

Oil prices leapt more than $1 a barrel early on Monday on
fears that the storm could do more damage to the region's oil
rigs and refineries. U.S. crude futures were trading up $1.13 a
barrel at $63.76 by 0411 GMT.