A strengthening Hurricane Delta already has disrupted U.S. offshore Gulf of Mexico oil and natural gas production, bringing most of the region’s oil and natural gas output to a standstill and threatening to strike the worst blow to production in 15 years.
Already a large and powerful storm, forecasters are expecting Delta to intensify further on Friday as it churns through the Gulf’s prime oil-producing area. Its winds reached 120 mph (195 kmh), according to the National Hurricane Center.
Delta will decrease as it approaches the Gulf Coast of Louisiana, but is expected to remain a Category 3 storm with a four- to 11-foot storm surge near landfall, according to the NHC. The storm is expected to land just east of Cameron, Louisiana, an area still suffering the impact of Hurricane Laura's 150 mph winds.
Delta already has shut 92% of offshore crude oil production in the U.S.-regulated northern Gulf of Mexico by midday Thursday, the U.S. Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement said, the most since 2005 when Hurricane Katrina tore up more than 100 offshore platforms.
The hurricane had also shut 62% of natural gas output in the Gulf, the BSEE said.
Workers had evacuated 279 offshore Gulf of Mexico facilities and producers moved 15 drilling rigs away from Delta’s large and strong windfield, according to Reuters. Tropical force winds stretched up to 160 miles from its center, the NHC said.
Oil prices eased Friday, but were on track for gains of about 10% for the week, boosted by outages in the Gulf and a labor dispute in the North Sea. The two combined have removed 3.17 million barrels per day from the market.
West Texas intermediate crude oil futures were down 0.87% at $40.83 a barrel.