Tropical Storm Barry veered away from oil and natural gas fields in the Gulf of Mexico on Sunday, but by that point the erratic tempest had already knocked a big dent in U.S. offshore energy production
, at least temporarily. Two of the biggest players in the Gulf of Mexico energy industry said that as a precaution against the storm they had suspended large volumes of oil and gas production, which taken together, represent a big slice of total output from the Gulf.
Shell Oil Co. -- the main U.S. subsidiary of European oil giant Royal Dutch/Shell -- said it suspended or "shut in" gross daily production of more than 300,000 barrels of crude oil and 1.2 billion cubic feet of gas.
Chevron Corp. said it shut in gross daily production of 118,000 barrels of oil and 452 million cubic feet of gas.
The Gulf of Mexico provides about one quarter of U.S. domestic production of both natural gas and crude oil -- some 13 billion cubic feet of gas and 1.4 million barrels of oil a day.
Shell and Chevron on Sunday began sending workers back to the offshore platforms they had abandoned for the safety of dry land, so they could start getting the lost production back on line. By Sunday afternoon Barry's center was 95 miles (153 km) south-southeast of Fort Walton Beach, Fla., after turning to the northeast from its original northwesterly course which had it heading straight for the oil and gas fields of the central Gulf. Meteorologists said the storm, whose winds were just below hurricane strength at 70 mph (110 kph), could become a hurricane before coming ashore, probably in Florida or Alabama.