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More than 25% of US Gulf crude oil still offline after Hurricane Zeta

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Houston — Nearly 30% of crude oil volumes from the US Gulf of Mexico remained offline on Nov. 2 after Hurricane Zeta swept through the region and knocked out power in much of southeastern Louisiana.

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An estimated 518,441 b/d of crude production and 431.48 MMcf/d of natural gas production was still shut-in on Nov. 2, reflecting 28% and 15.9% of US Gulf output, respectively, according to the US Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement. Fewer than 5% of the Gulf's platforms and rigs, or 28 facilities, remained evacuated, BSEE said.

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. The oil and gas volumes are still returning after producers redeployed their evacuated personnel.

"In the Gulf of Mexico, we have redeployed essential personnel and restored production at our Chevron-operated platforms that were shut in for Hurricane Zeta," Chevron said in a statement. The California-based company had shut in and evacuated all of its operated facilities in the Gulf.

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 early this 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.

Zeta was the 27th named storm of the year. There's already a record-setting Hurricane Eta that's projected to make landfall Nov. 3 in Nicaragua as a major hurricane, according to the National Hurricane Center. The historically busy Atlantic hurricane season lasts through the end of November.

Although Shell kept some of its offshore volumes flowing during Zeta, BP, Chevron, BHP and Equinor 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.

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 November.

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.