NEW ORLEANS - More than three-quarters of the Gulf of Mexico's offshore oil production had been cut off Saturday as energy companies evacuated petroleum platforms in the face of Hurricane Gustav.
The federal Minerals Management Service, which manages offshore leases, said 76.8 percent of the Gulf's daily oil production of 1.3 million barrels, or 998,000, had been stopped. The platform shutdowns also cut off 37 percent of the Gulf's daily production of 7.4 billion cubic feet of natural gas, or 2.75 billion cubic feet.
The MMS said 223 fixed production platforms had been shut down and evacuated, along with 45 drilling rigs, which are mobile and explore for petroleum. The agency said 717 staffed production platforms and 121 drilling rigs are currently operating in the Gulf.
About 35,000 people work in the Gulf, staffing offshore rigs and production facilities, among other tasks, according to the MMS.
Forecasters said Hurricane Gustav could reach the U.S. Gulf Coast early Tuesday, and stands to cross many petroleum areas of the Gulf that took damage from Katrina and Rita about three years ago. Those storms destroyed 115 of the Gulf's 4,000 oil and gas platforms, damaged 52 others and triggered petroleum price spikes.
The Gulf produces roughly 25 percent of the nation's oil and 15 percent of its natural gas.