U.S. Gulf oil platforms shutting as Hurricane Delta strengthens

HOUSTON, Oct 6 (Reuters) - Energy companies were securing offshore production platforms and evacuating workers on Tuesday, some for the sixth time this year, as a major hurricane took aim at U.S. oil production in the Gulf of Mexico.

Hurricane Delta, the 25th named storm of the 2020 Atlantic Hurricane season, was churning in the Caribbean with sustained winds of 115 miles per hour (185 kph), already a dangerous Category 3 storm that is expected to scrape across Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula and reenter the Gulf of Mexico.

Royal Dutch Shell Plc said on Tuesday it was evacuating nonessential workers from all nine of its offshore Gulf of Mexico operations and preparing to shut production.

Equinor ASA and BHP Group Ltd also shut in production and evacuated workers from platforms as the storm aims to cross the heart of the U.S. offshore oil patch, the companies said.

Oil prices rose more than 3% on Tuesday, boosted by the hurricane shut-ins, an oil workers’ strike in Norway and prospects for further fiscal stimulus. U.S. gasoline futures rose 2% and were trading at the highest level since Sept. 28. U.S. Gulf of Mexico offshore oil production accounts for 17% of total U.S. crude oil production and 5% of total U.S. dry natural gas production.

While the growth of U.S. shale oil output generally has tamed the market impact of hurricane shut-ins, there have been six storms starting with Tropical Storm Cristobal in June that have affected U.S. offshore oil operations this year. (Reporting by Erwin Seba in Houston Editing by Gary McWilliams and Matthew Lewis)