HOUSTON (Reuters) — Oil producers on Monday cut 16% of offshore production and pulled workers off platforms in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico as the 27th named storm of the season strengthened into a hurricane.
The storm was 105 miles (170 km) southeast of Cozumel, Mexico, packing maximum sustained winds of 80 miles per hour (130 km per hour) shortly after 2 p.m. CDT (1900 GMT). It could approach the northern Gulf Coast at or near hurricane strength on Wednesday, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said.
BP and Equinor ASA withdrew workers and shut their offshore production platforms, spokespeople said, as Zeta steamed toward Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula. The hurricane is forecast to sweep across the resort area on Monday and churn through Gulf of Mexico oilfields.
Energy producers shut 16%, or 293,656 barrels per day (bpd) of oil and 6% of natural gas output, or 162.57 million cubic feet per day by midday on Monday, the U.S. offshore energy regulator said.
BHP Group Ltd. and Chevron Corp began withdrawing staff from their U.S. Gulf of Mexico offshore facilities. Royal Dutch Shell paused some drilling and limited non-essential staff movement to its platforms, but had not halted production, it said in a statement.
Occidental Petroleum Corp., the third-largest producer in the offshore Gulf of Mexico, is implementing storm preparations, according to its website.
It has been a challenging year for Gulf of Mexico oil and gas producers, with companies having to withdraw workers and halt output at least six times as storms churned through the Gulf's offshore production region.
U.S. Gulf of Mexico offshore oil production accounts for about 17% of total U.S. crude oil output and 5% of total U.S. dry natural gas production.
If Zeta strikes the U.S. mainland, it would top the record of 10 named storms to make a U.S. landfall during the span of one hurricane season, set only weeks ago by Hurricane Delta.
Louisiana Offshore Oil Port, the largest deepwater oil export port on the U.S. Gulf Coast, is implementing storm procedures, it said. Oil deliveries to its onshore storage were unaffected.
Mississippi River ports from Baton Rouge to the Gulf of Mexico were open on Monday but placed on notice for gale force winds from a storm due within 72 hours.
(Reporting by Erwin Seba; writing by Gary McWilliams; Editing by David Gregorio and Marguerita Choy)
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