By Erwin Seba
HOUSTON (Reuters) – Storm-tossed U.S. offshore energy producers and exporters began clearing debris on Thursday from Hurricane Sally and booting up idle Gulf of Mexico operations after hunkering down for five days.
The storm toppled trees, flooded streets and left almost 500,000 homes and businesses in Alabama and Florida without power. Sally became a tropical depression on Thursday, leaving widespread flooding along its path with up to a foot (30 cm) of rain falling in parts of Florida and Georgia.
Crews returned to at least 30 offshore oil and gas platforms. Chevron Corp began restaffing its Blind Faith and Petronius platforms in the Gulf of Mexico, following Murphy Oil Corp.’s restart.
Bristow Group, which transports oil workers from a Galliano, Louisiana, heliport, resumed crew-change flights to facilities in the west and central Gulf of Mexico.
“We are making flights offshore and experiencing a slight increase in outbound passengers,” said heliport manager Lani Moneyhon.
The Louisiana Offshore Oil Port, a deep water oil port that handles supertankers, reopened its marine terminal after suspending operations over the weekend.
Sally had shut 508,000 barrels per day (bpd) of oil production and 805 million cubic feet of natural gas, more than a quarter of U.S. Gulf of Mexico output, and halted petrochemical exports all along the Gulf Coast.
About 1.1 million bpd of U.S. refining capacity were offline on Wednesday, according to the U.S. Energy Department, including two plants under repair since Hurricane Laura and another halted by weak demand due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Crude weakened early Thursday with U.S. futures down a fraction and trading below $40 a barrel. Gasoline futures inched higher in early trading, continuing gains this week.
Phillips 66, which shut its 255,600-bpd Alliance, Louisiana, oil refinery ahead of the storm, said it was advancing planned maintenance at the facility and would keep processing halted.
Royal Dutch Shell’s Mobile, Alabama, chemical plant and refinery reported no serious damage from an initial survey, the company said. Chevron said is a Pascagoula, Mississippi, oil refinery operated normally through the storm.
(Reporting by Erwin Seba; Writing by Gary McWilliams; Editing by Peter Cooney and Jonathan Oatis)