Operators in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico have already shut in nearly 16 percent of the oil production in the area and are expected to shut down more offshore platforms as tropical storm Zeta continues its course north and is expected to make landfall at hurricane or near-hurricane strength late on Wednesday.

As of late on Monday, operators in the Gulf had shut in 15.87 percent of the crude oil production, or 293,656 barrels per day, according to data from the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE).

Oil and gas operators in the area started evacuating platforms as the storm moved to the Gulf earlier this week.

BP, for example, said it was closely monitoring Tropical Storm Zeta in the Caribbean Sea on Sunday to ensure the safety of its personnel and operations in the deepwater Gulf of Mexico. BP has started securing its offshore facilities and evacuating personnel from its four offshore platforms in the Gulf—Atlantis, Mad Dog, Na Kika, and Thunder Horse.

Chevron evacuated non-essential staff from its platforms, while Shell started limiting the movement of non-essential personnel to offshore assets and paused some of its drilling operations. As of Monday, there were no impacts to Shell’s production, the company said.

According to the National Hurricane Center, the center of Zeta will move over the southern Gulf of Mexico later this morning and over the central Gulf of Mexico on Tuesday evening. Zeta is forecast to approach the northern Gulf Coast on Wednesday and make landfall late Wednesday or Wednesday night.

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Oil prices were slightly up early on Tuesday due to the shut-ins in the Gulf and a weaker dollar.

“For now, Brent remains stuck in a $39 to $44 range with the market focusing on the potential impact of Hurricane Zeta, the 11th record storm to hit the U.S. this year,” John Hardy, Head of FX Strategy at Saxo Bank, said on Tuesday.

Commenting on the hurricane’s impact on oil prices, ING strategists Warren Patterson and Wenyu Yao said: “While this may offer some support to the market as we move through the week, clearly the focus is likely to remain on Covid-19 developments.”  

By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com

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