Hurricane Ida Shuts Gulf Refineries; Downgraded to Tropical Storm

November 9, 2009

Energy companies operating in the Gulf of Mexico shut in oil and natural gas production and a major gas hub was closed on Monday as Hurricane Ida spun toward the region.

The Independence natural gas hub — the largest gas processing facility in the Gulf — was shut down by the storm, Enterprise Partners LP said on Monday.

The company also said the Viosca Knoll and West Delta 68 platforms had been shut in.

The move came after the giant Louisiana Offshore Oil Port suspended tanker offloadings over the weekend. Hurricane Ida weakened to a Category 1 storm as it churned through the Gulf early Monday.

(Since the closings, the U.S. National Hurricane Center on Monday has downgraded Ida to a tropical storm from a hurricane.)

The Gulf is the source of 25 percent of U.S. domestically produced oil and 15 percent of natural gas. About 40 percent of U.S. refining capacity is located on the Gulf Coast.

The storm threat helped push up oil prices by more than $1.50 to over $79 a barrel in early U.S. trading.

Ship traffic along the Mississippi River between New Orleans and the Gulf of Mexico was also shut down, the U.S. Coast Guard said on Monday.

BP, Marathon and Chevron said on Sunday they had shut in some production, while several other companies including Shell said they were evacuating some personnel.

Refineries along the U.S. Gulf Coast, including Chalmette, Motiva’s Norco refinery, and Chevron’s Pascagoula, were watching the storm but operating normally.

(Reporting by Bruce Nichols, Kristen Hays, Erwin Seba, Janet McGurty, Joshua Schneyer and Edward McAllister; editing by Jim Marshall)

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