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Gulf of Mexico drillers shutter 32% of oil production, 18% of gas output ahead of storm: US BSEE

Washington — US offshore drillers have shut-in 602,715 b/d of oil production, about 32% of the Gulf of Mexico's total output, and 496 MMcf/d of natural gas output, or 18% of the average, ahead of the expected formation of a tropical storm Thursday off Louisiana's coast, according to Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement data based on company surveys.

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BSEE said 15 platforms and four non-dynamically-positioned rigs have been evacuated, and three dynamically-positioned rigs have been moved off site.

The figures were based on operations reported to BSEE as of 11:30 am CDT (1630 GMT) Wednesday. BSEE plans to update the data daily as long as the storm remains a threat to Gulf Coast energy infrastructure.

Chevron, Anadarko and BP have started shuttering Gulf of Mexico production and evacuating staff from drilling platforms ahead of a tropical depression expected to develop Wednesday or Thursday, while Shell started evacuating non-essential staff but continued production.

Refining centers along the Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas coasts could see storm surges and severe winds later this week.

The weather system has a 100% chance of developing into a tropical depression within 48 hours, the National Hurricane Center said at 2 pm EDT Wednesday.

Forecasters expect it to reach tropical storm strength Thursday evening and increase to hurricane strength by Friday, with landfall near the Texas-Louisiana border. Once it reaches tropical storm strength, it would be called Barry.

-- Meghan Gordon,

-- Edited by Keiron Greenhalgh,