Oil workers flee as third storm in month aims for U.S. offshore fields
By Gary McWilliams HOUSTON (Reuters) - Royal Dutch Shell Plc halted some oil production and began evacuating workers from a U.S. Gulf of Mexico platform, the company said on Saturday, as a new tropical storm flared. Beta, the 23rd named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season, formed in the Bay of Campeche and was forecast to gradually strengthen and soak the Texas coast all week, the National Hurricane Center said
By Gary McWilliams
HOUSTON (Reuters) - Royal Dutch Shell Plc
Beta, the 23rd named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season, formed in the Bay of Campeche and was forecast to gradually strengthen and soak the Texas coast all week, the National Hurricane Center said.
The storm swirled even as oil and gas producers were restarting their offshore operations. Some 17% of U.S. Gulf of Mexico offshore oil production and nearly 13% of natural gas output was offline on Saturday from Hurricane Sally's waves and winds.
The NHC reduced its maximum wind forecast to 75 miles per hour (120 kph), just above tropical storm intensity. Drier air aloft will limit Beta's strength and may prevent it from becoming a hurricane, the NHC said in a Saturday update.
Shell said it was removing non-essential employees from its Perdido platform in the western Gulf of Mexico and securing nearby drilling rigs. Occidental Petroleum Corp
If Beta reaches hurricane strength, with maximum winds greater than 74 mph on the Saffir-Simpson scale, it would be the third Gulf of Mexico hurricane in less than a month. Hurricane Sally slammed into Alabama on Wednesday with winds of up to 105 mph (170 kph) and Laura hit southwest Louisiana with 150 mph winds.
There were 24 platforms awaiting the return of work crews on Saturday, down from 149 earlier in the week. Some 323,000 barrels of oil and 339 million cubic feet of natural gas output remained offline by Gulf of Mexico producers that had shut output ahead of Hurricane Sally, the U.S. Department of Interior said.
The U.S. Gulf of Mexico offshore oil production accounts for 17% of U.S. crude oil production and 5% of U.S. natural gas production.
(Reporting by Gary McWilliams and Erwin Seba; Editing by William Mallard, Daniel Wallis and David Gregorio)
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