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Wednesday, September 22, 2021

‘Extremely dangerous’ Hurricane Ida knocks out more oil than Katrina

Over 45 per cent of US refining capacity lies along the Gulf Coast.

By: Reuters | Houston |
August 28, 2021 9:32:26 am
Hurricane Ida struck Cuba on Friday and threatened to slam into Louisiana with far greater force over the weekend, prompting New Orleans. (NOAA via AP)

US oil and gas companies on Friday cut more than 1.6 million barrels of oil production as a major storm churned toward oilfields that provide 17 per cent of the nation’s oil production.

Production cutbacks ahead of Hurricane Ida exceed those during 2005’s devastating Katrina barreled into Cuba on Friday after intensifying into a hurricane with 85 miles per hour (130 kph) winds, according to the National Hurricane Center (NHC). It could become “an extremely dangerous major hurricane,” and threaten the US Gulf Coast “catastrophic wind damage,” the NHC said.

Top Gulf of Mexico oil producer Royal Dutch Shell Plc said it suspended production at seven offshore platforms and two processing plants onshore. BP Plc stopped work at four platforms.  Both said they were evacuating offshore workers.

Chevron Corp. said it was shutting in production at its six Gulf of Mexico platforms and evacuating all workers. BHP and Equinor pulled workers from offshore facilities, spokespeople said.

Oil companies had shut 59 per cent of Gulf oil production and 49 per cent of natural gas output, according to the US offshore regulator. A total of 90 offshore facilities were evacuated and 11 drilling vessels moved out of harm’s way.

“This could be comparable to hurricanes Laura and Harvey, as far as intensity goes,” said Joe Bastardi, a chief forecaster with Weatherbell Analytics, referring to two hurricanes with winds of at least 130 mph (209 kph). “In the worst-case scenario, it could go as high as a category 5,” he said.

During Katrina, a hurricane that wreaked havoc in Louisiana, supplies were cut by up to 1.53 million barrels per day. Production outages lasted for weeks due to damaged platforms and refineries. Last year’s Delta shut in up to 1.69 million barrels per day.

Gasoline manufacturer PBF Energy pared production at its Chalmette refinery, said people familiar with the matter, and Phillips 66 said it was releasing non-essential workers and halting output at its Alliance, Louisiana, plant. Shell also is stopping fuel production at its Norco refinery, and chemical manufacturing at its Geismar, Louisiana, plant, it said.

Oil prices rose nearly 2 per cent on Friday and posted their biggest weekly gain in over a year. Some US Gulf Coast gasoline prices gained for a fourth day, with one type of gasoline feedstock up by 600 per cent since Tuesday.

Over 45 per cent of US refining capacity lies along the Gulf Coast.

Louisiana’s governor called on residents to prepare for a major storm, President Joe Biden issued a federal emergency declaration and New Orleans and coastal officials asked residents to move to higher ground. Five storms made landfall in Louisiana last year, causing billions of dollars in damage.

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