HOUSTON, Oct 28 (Reuters) - Energy firms shut nearly half
the offshore U.S. Gulf of Mexico oil production, turned off
undersea pipelines and evacuated workers as Hurricane Zeta
steamed on Wednesday toward the oil and refining complex along
the U.S. Gulf Coast.
Zeta accelerated and intensified early Wednesday and was
forecast to crash into Louisiana later in the day as a
"significant hurricane" with winds of up to 90 miles per hour
(150 kph), the U.S. National Hurricane Service said.
Energy producers had shut about half the offshore region's
oil and natural gas output, or 914,811 barrels of oil and 1.5
billion cubic feet of gas, the U.S. offshore energy regulator
BP Plc, Chevron Corp, Royal Dutch Shell Plc
and Murphy Oil Corp were among the major oil
producers that had evacuated workers from 157 offshore
facilities. Occidental Petroleum Corp, the third-largest
offshore Gulf of Mexico producer, said it was implementing storm
Ports along the Mississippi River from Baton Rouge,
Louisiana, to the Gulf of Mexico, and from Gulfport,
Mississippi, east to Pensacola, Florida, were closed by the U.S.
Coast Guard to vessel traffic.
Repeated storm shutdowns this year have been costly for oil
and gas producers and processors. Some were pulling staff for at
least the sixth time since June and having to exit under
COVID-19 pandemic precautions.
Zeta is the 11th named storm of the year to make a U.S.
landfall and will be the seventh named storm this year to affect
energy producers along the Gulf Coast.
The loss of millions of barrels of oil production lost from
the storms have not impacted markets. U.S. oil futures
were off 5% on Wednesday as energy demand has been crushed by
the pandemic and crude oil supplies in storage risen.
Gulf Coast refiners, which had not already halted
operations, were planning to run through the storm, people
familiar with plant operations said. An onshore gas processing
plant removed its workers on Tuesday, and two Louisiana
oil-processing facilities have been idled since storms earlier
(Reporting by Erwin Seba; writing by Gary McWilliams
Editing by Marguerita Choy)