Laura causes oil shutdowns in Gulf of Mexico

Hurricane Laura is set to strike the Louisiana/Texas coast late Wednesday and early Thursday as either a Category 3 or Category 4 hurricane.

Oil production shutdowns in the Gulf of Mexico were approaching the level of 2005’s Hurricane Katrina, leading coastal refiners on Tuesday to cut processing.

Hurricane Laura was expected to become a major hurricane with sustained 115mph winds.

The oncoming storm had shut 1.5m bpd of crude oil output, equal to 82% of Gulf of Mexico’s offshore production, which was close to the 90% shut down caused by 15 years ago. Refiners are halting the processing of 6% of US total capacity, according to Reuters.

Chris Kerr, a meteorologist at agriculture, energy and weather data provider DTN, said that there would be a significant storm surge from Galveston (Texas) to the Sabine River”, an area encompassing some of the region’s largest refineries. “There are ideal conditions in central and west Gulf for rapid intensification”, Kerr warned.

Motiva Enterprises, Total SA and Valero Energy began cutting operations at their Port Arthur, Texas, refineries, said Reuters, citing unnamed people familiar with the matter. The three combined process more than 900,000 bpd of oil.

Officials in Port Arthur, an city of 54,000 people, and similar-sized Galveston, Texas, ordered mandatory evacuations.

Exxon Mobil Corp was reported to have reduced production at its 369,000 bpd refinery in Beaumont, Texas.