The first major storm of the hurricane season has forced U.S. oil producers to remove workers from their Gulf of Mexico operations.
The potential hurricane, to be named Barry already forced producers to cut nearly a third of their crude output in the Gulf. The storm also has threatened Gulf Coast refinery operations.
At least 15 production platforms and four rigs were evacuated on Wednesday in the north central Gulf of Mexico. Workers were moved to safety ahead of the storm.
Exxon Mobil Corp, ConocoPhillips, Anadarko Petroleum Corp and others withdrew staff, and some cut production from deepwater platforms as a safety precaution.
The withdrawals helped push U.S. oil futures up 4.5% to $60.43 a barrel on Wednesday, and lifted gasoline futures more than 4% to the highest price since late May. The U.S. Gulf of Mexico produces 17% of U.S. crude oil and 5% of natural gas.
Chevron has shut production at five Gulf platforms – Big Foot, Blind Faith, Genesis, Petronius and Tahiti – and has begun to evacuate all workers at those offshore facilities, spokeswoman Veronica Flores-Paniagua said.
BP Plc, the second-largest oil producer in the Gulf by volume, is shutting all production at its four Gulf platforms – Thunder Horse, Atlantis, Mad Dog and Na Kika – which produce more than 300,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day.
Exxon has evacuated nonessential staff from three platforms in the Gulf, but anticipates little effect on its production, spokeswoman Julie King said.
Anadarko, the third-largest U.S. Gulf producer by volume, said it is stopping oil and gas production and removing workers from its four central Gulf facilities: the Constitution, Heidelberg, Holstein and Marco Polo platforms. It said it is also evacuating nonessential staff from eastern Gulf platforms.
Royal Dutch Shell Plc expanded an earlier offshore evacuation to seven platforms and shut more production, the company said on Wednesday.
Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards on Wednesday declared a state of emergency as the potential hurricane approached the state. The state expected up to 15 inches of rain and New Orleans was already under a flash flood warning after getting 8 inches of rain on Wednesday.
Chevron, Phillips 66, Exxon and Royal Dutch Shell were preparing for heavy rain and wind at refineries along the Gulf Coast, company representatives said. Exxon reported operations at its Gulf Coast refineries were normal on Wednesday morning.