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US Gulf oil and gas production, Louisiana refineries returning after Hurricane Zeta


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Houston — The US Gulf of Mexico's oil and gas volumes and some New Orleans-area refineries are returning after Hurricane Zeta ripped through the region and knocked out power in much of southeastern Louisiana.

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An estimated 1.23 million b/d of crude production and 1,090 MMcf/d of natural gas production remained offline on Oct. 30, reflecting 66.3% and 40.2% of US Gulf output, respectively, according to the US Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement. About 35% of the Gulf's platforms and rigs, or 231 facilities, were evacuated, BSEE said, but only 155 remained evacuated on Oct. 30.

After its Oct. 28 landfall, Zeta had triggered a peak of 85% of the US Gulf crude to be shut in, as well as 58% of the natural gas supplies. Most of the oil and gas volumes are expected to return throughout the weekend as producers redeploy their evacuated personnel.

The Category 2 hurricane made landfall along the Louisiana Coast and caused power disruptions at Shell's 227,400 b/d Norco Refinery, PBF Energy's 190,000 b/d Chalmette Refinery and potentially others, but damages were limited and everything is expected to be fully operational by early next week, the companies and market sources said.

Because of downstream disruptions, Shell temporarily shut in production at its Mars corridor and Appomattox platforms. But Shell said it had begun ramping production back up late on Oct. 29. Shell said its Stone FPSO remained shut in though.

"All of our mobile drilling units are returning to drill sites to re-start operations," Shell said in a statement.

Zeta was the 27th named storm of the year, tying the 2005 record with more than a month remaining in the hurricane season. There's already another disturbance in the Atlantic with a 70% chance of cyclone formation in the next 48 hours, according to the National Hurricane Center. That disturbance could become the first storm ever named "Eta" from the Greek record, giving 2020 the new record.

Although Shell kept some of its offshore volumes flowing during Zeta, BP, Chevron, BHP and Eqinor counted among those that shut in production at all of their operated platforms in the US Gulf. BP, for instance, shut in its four operated platforms -- Atlantis, Mad Dog, Na Kika and Thunder Horse -- and evacuated personnel.

Chevron also closed its Fourchon and Empire terminals in Louisiana, as well as their related pipeline systems.

"Chevron has begun to redeploy personnel and restore production at our Chevron-operated platforms that were shut in for Hurricane Zeta," Chevron said in a statement.

Setting records

Earlier in October, Hurricane Delta forced more than 90% of the US Gulf's nearly 1.9 million b/d of crude production to be shut in, and Zeta nearly took as much offline.

Named storms Zeta, Delta, Beta, Sally, Marco, Laura, Hanna and Cristobal have all disrupted activities in the Gulf from June through October.

Zeta's path through southeastern Louisiana targeted roughly 757,400 b/d of refining capacity, but refiners all opted to continue operating during the storm, based on their hurricane readiness and response plans.

The Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality said it didn't received any notifications of plans to shut down any refineries or plants ahead of Zeta, although disruptions were subsequently reported during the hurricane.

Phillips 66 already had taken its 255,600 b/d Alliance refinery in Belle Chasse, Louisiana offline in September for earlier-than-planned maintenance work. If weaker demand and market conditions persist, Phillips 66 said Oct. 30 that Alliance could remain shut down into 2021.

Citgo Petroleum's and Phillips 66's Lake Charles refineries in Louisiana recently came back online in October after sustaining damages from Hurricane Laura in August.

Also, the Cameron Highway Oil Pipeline System, known as CHOPS, that originates in the Gulf of Mexico is expected to stay offline at least into late November after an associated offshore platform was damaged by Laura.