U.S. Gulf oil patch restores operations after Don

By Erwin Seba

HOUSTON (Reuters) - Offshore oil and natural gas producers re-staffed their production platforms in the Gulf of Mexico on Saturday, the day after Tropical Storm Don made landfall on the south Texas coast.

Don, the year's first major Gulf of Mexico storm, was nearly dissipated by Saturday morning after weakening to a tropical depression as it made landfall late on Friday near Baffin Bay, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said.

The storm's path took it well to the west of the largest concentration of offshore oil and natural gas platforms and onshore refineries along the Gulf Coast.

Don passed 40 miles south of Corpus Christi, a major center for refineries operated by Valero Energy Corp, Flint Hills Resources and Citgo Petroleum Corp. Officials at those refineries did not report any slowdowns on Saturday.

Big offshore oil and natural gas producers like BP Plc, Shell Oil Co and Anadarko Petroleum Corp returned staff to their offshore platforms, after evacuating some of them earlier in the week due to storm concerns.

Nearly 12 percent of U.S. Gulf of Mexico crude output remained shut on Friday, according to government data, but analysts believe the storm's relative weakness and projected path made prolonged production outages or energy infrastructure damage unlikely.

The Gulf accounts for 30 percent of U.S. oil production and 12 percent of natural gas output, according to the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management. The Gulf Coast is home to about 40 percent of U.S. refining capacity and about 30 percent of U.S. natural gas processing plant capacity.

A westward-moving tropical wave 900 miles east of the Windward Islands has a 70 percent chance of becoming a tropical cyclone within the next two days, the NHC said. That system will be named Emily if it strengthens into a storm or hurricane.

(Reporting by Erwin Seba, editing by Chris Baltimore and Vicki Allen)