The US energy industry and ports in Louisiana and Texas were preparing on Tuesday for a potential major hurricane strike Thursday morning local time.
Offshore crude oil production was being cut at a rate approaching the level of 2005’s Hurricane Katrina. Oil refining at plants along the Texas-Louisiana coast is being cut back.
Hurricane Laura has strengthened this week, with forecasters predicting that it would become a major hurricane with sustained 115mph winds.
By Tuesday August 25th oil producers had evacuated 310 offshore facilities and shut 1.56m bpd of crude output.
The storm is scheduled to make landfall early today (Thursday) local time in an area that accounts for more than 45% of total US petroleum refining capacity and 17% of oil production, according to the Energy Information Administration.
Refiners that produce gasoline and diesel fuel were taking steps to halt nine facilities that process nearly 2.9m bpd, equal to 14.6% of the US total capacity, according to Reuters tallies.
The impact on refineries thus far has been less than Hurricane Harvey in 2017, the first of a trio of hurricanes that hit the US that year. Harvey temporarily stopped nearly 25% of US refining capacity.
Cheniere Energy Inc, which is the largest US exporter of LNG, evacuated staff and suspended operations at its Sabine Pass LNG export terminal on the Texas/Louisiana border.
Motiva Enterprises, Total SA and Valero Energy conformed that they had begun cutting operations at their Port Arthur, Texas, refineries; a Valero spokeswoman said it also was reviewing the risks to its Texas City, plant southeast of Houston.
Citgo Petroleum was halting operations at its 418,000 bpd refinery in Lake Charles, Louisiana, and Chevron shut gasoline production at its 112,000 bpd Pasadena, Texas, refinery.
Exxon Mobil Corp began shutting production at its large Beaumont, Texas, refinery and reduced output at its Baytown, Texas, plant ahead of a possible shutdown. Exxon confirmed it was initiating a shutdown at Beaumont and was preparing for possible severe weather at its Baytown refinery and chemical complex.