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Gulf of Mexico oil, gas production plunges as Nate forces evacuations

Offshore oil and gas producers in the Gulf of Mexico are evacuating platforms and shutting in supply in advance of Tropical Storm Nate, which is still strengthening and could reach hurricane status before making landfall on the U.S. Gulf Coast by Sunday, Oct. 8.

In a report released Oct. 6, the U.S. Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement estimated that more than 1.7 Bcf/d of natural gas production in the Gulf of Mexico is currently shut-in, up from just 0.2 Bcf/d reported offline on Oct. 5. The amount of production currently idled is equal to more than 53% of the region's gas-producing capacity.

In addition, the bureau estimates that about 1.24 million barrels of oil per day, or more than 71% of the oil production in the Gulf of Mexico, is offline as a result of the storm. This marks a big jump from the 254,607 barrels per day reported offline on Oct. 5.

Personnel have been evacuated from a total of 66 production platforms, which are offshore structures that typically remain in the same location throughout a project's duration. This represents almost 9% of the 737 manned platforms in the Gulf of Mexico.

In addition, five nondynamically positioned rigs, equivalent to 20% of the region's total, have been evacuated, and 11 of the 18 dynamically positioned rigs currently operating in the Gulf have moved off location out of the storm's path as a precaution.

According to the U.S. National Hurricane Center, the center of Tropical Storm Nate as of 1 p.m. CT on Oct. 6 was located about 125 miles east-southeast of Cozumel, Mexico, and about 210 miles north-northeast of Isla Guanaja, Honduras, moving toward the north-northwest near 21 miles per hour. Maximum sustained winds are near 50 mph with higher gusts.

The storm is expected to continue travelling north-northwest through Oct. 6 with a turn toward the north and northeast expected late Oct. 7. On the forecast track, the center of Nate will cross the Yucatan peninsula and into the southern Gulf of Mexico late Oct. 6 and approach the U.S. Gulf Coast by late Oct. 8.

"Strengthening is forecast during the next couple of days, and Nate is expected to become a hurricane by the time it reaches the northern Gulf of Mexico," the National Hurricane Center said.

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According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the Gulf of Mexico federal offshore region accounts for about 5% of total U.S. dry gas production and about 17% of total U.S. crude oil production. The Gulf Coast also accounts for more than 45% of total U.S. petroleum refining capacity and 51% of total U.S. natural gas processing plant capacity.