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Gulf of Mexico oil platforms evacuated ahead of Nate

U.S. waters in the Gulf of Mexico account for about 17 percent of total U.S. oil production.

By Daniel J. Graeber
Tropical Storm Nate is the latest storm to pose a threat to the U.S. energy sector. Nate is expected to strengthen to a hurricane by the time it hits Louisiana early Sunday. Map courtesy of the U.S. National Hurricane Center
Tropical Storm Nate is the latest storm to pose a threat to the U.S. energy sector. Nate is expected to strengthen to a hurricane by the time it hits Louisiana early Sunday. Map courtesy of the U.S. National Hurricane Center

Oct. 6 (UPI) -- Energy companies working in the U.S. waters of the Gulf of Mexico said they pulled staff from their platforms as Tropical Storm Nate moves north from Honduras.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami, Fla., said Nate is moving northwest from Honduras and gaining strength.

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"Maximum sustained winds are near 45 miles per hour with higher gusts," a Friday morning forecast read. "Strengthening is forecast during the next couple of days, and Nate is expected to become a hurricane by the time it reaches the northern Gulf of Mexico."

If the forecast is accurate, it would be another in a line of hurricanes that has pounded the southern United States and its regional territories this year. Hurricane Harvey hit the southern coast of Texas in late August, knocking out much of the regional refineries. Irma's landfall in Florida shortly afterward upended the national energy sector because the state has no refineries and other markets had to work overtime to make up the difference. The U.S. island territory of Puerto Rico, meanwhile, is still in a state of devastation in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.

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Nate is the latest threat to U.S. energy sector resilience. The latest storm path shows Nate making landfall in Louisiana as a hurricane early Sunday morning.

"With forecasts indicating that Tropical Storm Nate will strengthen as it moves into the central Gulf of Mexico, BP has begun removing all remaining offshore personnel and shutting-in production at BP's four operated platforms," the company said in a statement. "Once this process is complete, BP will continue to monitor offshore conditions to determine when conditions are safe to redeploy personnel and resume operations."

Anadarko Petroleum, one of the larger operators in the Gulf of Mexico, said that it shut production and pulled staff from its Horn Mountain platform, planning the same at its Marlin facility later on Friday and taking non-essential staff from the Constitution, Holstein, Lucius and Marco Polo platforms.

After Harvey made landfall, commodity pricing group S&P Global Platts estimated about a quarter of the U.S. offshore crude oil production was impacted by the storm. The Gulf of Mexico accounts for 17 percent of total U.S. crude oil production.

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