HOUSTON, Sept 4 (Reuters) – Two more oil producers pulled employees out of Tropical Storm Gordon’s path, and oil companies cut 9 percent of U.S. Gulf of Mexico oil and gas production on Tuesday as the storm churned toward an expected nighttime landfall.
The storm, which is expected to strengthen into a category 1 hurricane with winds of at least 74 miles per hour (119 km/h), shifted eastward, reducing its threat to major production areas and most Gulf Coast refineries.
Companies evacuated 54 offshore platforms and halted 156,907 barrels per day of oil production and 232 million cubic feet per day of natural gas output, according to estimates by the U.S. Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement.
Offshore oil production accounts for 17 percent of total U.S. oil production and 5 percent of natural gas production.
Exxon Mobil Corp on Tuesday evacuated employees from and shut-in its Lena offshore production platform. Chevron Corp halted production and evacuated non-essential personnel from its Petronius platform.
The pair followed Anadarko Petroleum Corp’s decision on Monday to evacuate staff and shut production at two oil platforms in the northern Gulf of Mexico.
Other major oil producers, including ConocoPhillips, BP and Royal Dutch Shell, said they continued to operate and were monitoring conditions. The Louisiana Offshore Oil Port, the largest privately owned crude terminal in the United States, also said it was operating normally.
U.S. and global crude futures were up a fraction as traders did not expect the storm to have long-term impact on Gulf output. The storm’s potential threat also was overshadowed by rising overall oil production data, traders said.
“There may be slight delays loading from refineries due to vessels not berthing but it is not going to hurt production at all,” said one trader, referring to refined products supply.
The ports of Gulfport and Pascagoula, Mississippi, and Mobile, Alabama, were closed to all traffic on Tuesday, the U.S. Coast said in a statement. New Orleans-area ports were operating under an advisory that called for gale force winds within 24 hours.
Matt Gresham, director of external affairs at the Port of New Orleans, said pilots who guide ships through the mouth of the Mississippi River at Southwest Pass had ceased operations, closing the pass to all inbound and outbound traffic.
Several companies had halted gate operations, and the port’s administrative office was to close at 2 p.m., he said. (Reporting by Jessica Resnick-Ault, Scott Disavino and Devika Krishna Kumar in New York and Erwin Seba in Houston Editing by Chizu Nomiyama, Dan Grebler and Cynthia Osterman)
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