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Nearly 85% of US Gulf oil offline from Zeta; refiners restart after power outages


Shell and PBF refineries disrupted by Zeta

Shell shut-in production at Mars corridor and Appomattox platforms

Some offshore personnel being redeployed Oct. 29 and Oct. 30

Houston — Producers took 85% of the US Gulf's crude oil flows ahead of Hurricane Zeta and, now that the storm has passed, some Louisiana refineries are beginning to restart after suffering from the widespread power outages throughout the New Orleans area.

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The strong Category 2 hurricane made landfall Oct. 28 along the Louisiana Coast and caused 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 the restart processes have begun, the companies said.

As for offshore, an estimated 1.57 million b/d of crude production and 1,561 MMcf/d of natural gas production was shut in, reflecting 84.8% and 57.6% 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.

Zeta was the 27th named storm of the year, tying the 2005 record with more than a month remaining in the hurricane season.

Shell kept most of its offshore production online as Zeta trekked through the Gulf, but Shell did decide Oct. 29 to shut-in production at its Mars corridor and Appomattox platforms, citing "downstream impacts" after the Norco Refinery was temporarily knocked out of commission. Earlier, Shell had shut in its Stones FPSO, but kept its other Gulf platforms in operation.

"The Shell Norco Manufacturing Complex did experience power outages resulting in the shutdown of some units, but those units are now being returned to operational status," said Shell spokesman Curtis Smith in a statement.

Likewise, PBF's Chalmette Refinery is restarting the reformer and other units that came down due to power outages. Market sources expect it will take three to five days to get it back fully online.

BP, Chevron, BHP and Eqinor confirmed they had 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 shut down its Fourchon and Empire terminals in Louisiana, as well as their related pipeline systems.

Occidental Petroleum, Murphy Oil and others shut-in some production, but did not specify which platforms were impacted.

Setting records

Oil and gas volumes in the US Gulf were yet again severely disrupted from the record-setting 2020 Atlantic hurricane season, although production could start returning shortly.

"As conditions continue to improve today and tomorrow, we are beginning the process of redeploying personnel to our assets," Shell said Oct. 29.

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, down from a wider cone of 2.7 million b/d earlier in the week.

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.

Citgo Petroleum's and Phillips 66's Lake Charles refineries recently came back online after sustaining damages from Hurricane Laura in August. Phillips 66's Alliance Refinery in Belle Chasse also remains offline for maintenance work.

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.