Hurricane Laura shutters over 84% of US oil production in Gulf of Mexico

An intensifying Hurricane Laura over the Gulf of Mexico is threatening the center of the U.S. energy industry on Wednesday as the storm edges closer to land.

Continue Reading Below

The federal Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) said that as of late Tuesday, just over 84% of Gulf oil production and an estimated 61% of natural gas production has been shut down.

"After the storms have passed, facilities will be inspected," the agency said. "Once all standard checks have been completed, production from undamaged facilities will be brought back online immediately."

HURRICANE LAURA POSES BIGGEST THREAT TO U.S. OIL IN 15 YEARS

Nearly 300 production platforms have also been evacuated due to Laura and the prior storm in the Gulf, Marco.

A strengthening Hurricane Laura is seen over the Gulf of Mexico on Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2020. (NOAA/GOES-East)

Federal officials said that another 16 dynamically positioned rigs, which are not moored to the seafloor, were moved off location due to the storms' projected paths.

The storm will make landfall in an area that accounts for more than 45% of all U.S. petroleum refining capacity and 17% of oil production, according to the Energy Information Administration.

If the worst of Laura impacts Southwest Louisiana, the storm could affect liquified natural gas operations in that area.

“The LNG tankers and all of that stuff will be affected as well as the Mississippi River shipping in addition to the offshore deep-water activity,” Eric Smith, a professor at Tulane University’s Energy Institute, told FOX8.

WHY TROPICAL STOMRS LAURA, MARCO WON'T CAUSE GASOLINE PRICES TO SURGE

A tally by Reuters showed that refiners that produce gasoline and diesel fuel were taking steps to halt production at nine facilities that process around 14.6% of total capacity in the U.S.

While oil prices often spike before a major storm as production slows, consumers are unlikely to see big price changes because the coronavirus pandemic has decimated demand for fuel.

GET FOX BUSINESS ON THE GO BY CLICKING HERE

The National Hurricane Center (NHC) said that Laura is forecast to rapidly strengthen into a "catastrophic" Category 4 hurricane as it churns toward Texas and Louisiana.

The storm has grown nearly 70% in power in just 24 hours, “and there are no signs it will stop soon," forecasters said in an update early Wednesday.

“We could see storm surge heights more than 15 feet in some areas,” Stacy Stewart, a senior hurricane specialist at the hurricane center, told the Associated Press. “What doesn’t get blown down by the wind could easily get knocked down by the rising ocean waters pushing well inland.”

READ MORE ON FOX BUSINESS BY CLICKING HERE

The Associated Press contributed to this report.