India's biggest oil and gas producer ONGC has evacuated close to 500 of its employees from offshore installations in the Bay of Bengal and moved drilling rigs to safer locations ahead of an impending cyclone that is expected to make landfall on Friday.
India's eastern coast is dotted with oil and gas installations including three refineries and numerous rigs and offshore platforms that are used to explore and produce oil and gas.
Sources privy to the development said while operations at Paradip port, in Odisha and Visakhapatnam, in Andhra Pradesh have been shut and ships have been ordered to move out to sea to avoid damage, the refineries are operating but with all precautions in place.
State-owned Oil and Natural Gas Corp (ONGC) had six rigs operating off the Andhra coast, four of which have been moved away from the path of severe cyclonic storm Fani.
Sources said the company began evacuating staff from the rigs as early as on April 27 and had by May 1 evacuated over 480 of them. Some more are in the process of being evacuated.
Other than rigs, one manned platform of producing oil and gas, PLQP is also operational in the area. The cyclone is expected to cross nearly 200 km away from PLQP platform around May 3.
As many as 17 out of the 41 personnel on board PLQP were evacuated on Wednesday and a view for the others on board will be taken depending upon the movement of the cyclone, they said.
Severe cyclonic storm Fani, which was centered in the west of the Bay of Bengal, is expected to make landfall at south of Puri in Odisha within 24 hours.
Sources said ONGC had as many as six rigs exploring and drilling for oil and gas off the Andhra coast. Personnel on five of them have been completely evacuated to safer zones.
The evacuated rigs include Aban-II (85 personnel), DD-8 (103), Louisiana (83) and Essar Wildcat (87 personnel).
A control room has been set up to monitor the situation developing on the eastern coast.
Indian Oil Corp (IOC) has put its 15 million tonnes a year Paradip oil refinery on high alert but operations have not been suspended, they said adding employees have been instructed to take all precautions.
The refinery, which was built after a super-cyclone battered the coast of Odisha for 30 hours, killing 10,000 people, two decades ago, has design features to withstand Fani-type cyclones.
Visakhapatnam refinery of Hindustan Petroleum Corp Ltd (HPCL) too is continuing operations.
Safety measures have been taken to avoid any damage, they added.
Fani has been labeled as a category 3 storm on a scale of 1 to 5.
Sources said Reliance Industries has a natural gas field in Krishna Godavari basin off the east coast which continues to operate normally.