As much as 66.6 percent of crude oil production in the Gulf of Mexico remained shut in on Wednesday ahead of Hurricane Zeta, with 228 platforms evacuated according to the latest update from the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement.

Oil field operators in the Gulf began evacuating staff from their production platforms earlier this week when Zeta was still a tropical storm.

Zeta is the fifth named storm and the latest hurricane during this year’s very active Atlantic hurricane season that has forced operators in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico to evacuate platforms and rigs and shut-in production. However, it has not yet led to as many shut-ins as the previous storm.

Earlier this month, Hurricane Delta forced the shut-in of more than 91 percent of oil production in the Gulf of Mexico at peak shut-ins. This made Delta more damaging to oilfield operators than Laura from earlier this year.

At its peak, Laura forced the evacuation of nearly half of the 643 offshore production platforms operating in the Federal Offshore Gulf of Mexico. The peak shut-in of crude oil production occurred on August 25, two days before Laura’s landfall, when 84 percent of the region’s average daily crude oil production in 2019 was shut in.

Zeta made landfall late on Wednesday in Louisiana as a Category 2 storm and continued moving north-northeast at a speed of 25 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center.

Oil production shut-ins in the Gulf of Mexico normally push prices higher, but this time the evacuations have failed to move benchmarks as the pressure from the fast rise in new Covid-19 infections remains stronger than pretty much any bullish news about oil. On Wednesday, Brent crude even slipped below $40 for a while, as pandemic updates continued to stoke fears about oil demand recovery.

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By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com

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