Tropical Storm Debby, forecast on Sunday to charge through the U.S. offshore oil patch this week, has shut nearly a quarter of offshore crude oil and natural gas production, the U.S. government said.
BP Plc, the largest oil producer in the Gulf of Mexico, shut in all of its production. The Louisiana Offshore Oil Port, the only U.S. port for handling the largest oil tank ships, stopped operating due to rough seas.
ConocoPhillips and Royal Dutch Shell Plc had also shut some of their production as of Sunday as the first storm of the 2012 Atlantic hurricane season to threaten offshore production gained strength in the Gulf.
The storm has a 30 percent chance of reaching hurricane strength before landfall and could temporarily disrupt 55 percent of Gulf offshore oil production and 44 percent of natural gas production due to short-term evacuations, according to Weather Insight, a unit of Thomson Reuters.
The forecast for Debby has changed drastically in the past few days. On Friday, as Debby was forming off Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula, the storm was expected just to skirt the eastern edge of U.S.-regulated Gulf oil and natural gas production areas before heading for Florida.
For most of Sunday, the forecast showed Debby was expected to hit southeast Louisiana by sometime Wednesday as a hurricane, but late in the day the storm appeared aimed away from offshore production areas and at the Florida panhandle.
As of midday on Sunday, 22.7 percent of daily crude oil production, up from 7.8 percent on Saturday, and 22.9 percent of daily natural gas output, up from 8.16 percent, had been shut due to Debby, according to the U.S. Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, which oversees oil and gas activity in the Gulf.
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