Hurricane knocks out 42 percent of U.S. Gulf of Mexico oil output

HOUSTON (Reuters) - Hurricane Michael on Wednesday cut 42 percent of U.S. Gulf of Mexico daily crude oil production and nearly a third of natural gas output, the largest reductions in a year, after companies evacuated staff and shut-in platforms as a precaution.

Michael slammed into the Florida Panhandle on Wednesday as a fast-moving, Category 4 storm bringing heavy rains and winds of 155 miles per hour (249 kph) to the U.S. southeast.

Companies turned off daily production of 718,877 barrels of oil and 812 million cubic feet of natural gas by midday on Wednesday, according to the federal offshore regulator, the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE).

Despite the fall in output, U.S. crude futures CLc1 settled down more than 2 percent at $73.17 per barrel on Wednesday, tracking the weaker U.S. stock market and reflecting the declining importance of Gulf of Mexico output due to burgeoning growth from onshore shale fields.

Wednesday’s cuts represent about 6.5 percent of the nation’s daily output of 11.1 million barrels of crude. It is the most since Hurricane Nate a year ago curtailed more than 90 percent of Gulf oil production.

Total crude output lost in the last three days from shut-ins amounted to 1.7 million barrels, according to BSEE data. It can take several days after a storm passes to restaff and check equipment before production can resume.

Oil producers including Anadarko Petroleum Corp (APC.N), BHP Billiton (BLT.L), BP (BP.L), Chevron Corp (CVX.N) a....

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