U.S. Energy Exports Severely Disrupted by Hurricane Laura

NEW YORK/SINGAPORE (Reuters) — Oil and gas exports from the United States have been severely disrupted by Hurricane Laura, with nearly a million barrels per day (bpd) of crude exports likely reduced this week by closures of U.S. Gulf Coast terminals and disruptions at ports. 

The hurricane also temporarily suspended operations at several liquefied natural gas (LNG) facilities in the world’s third largest exporter of the super-cooled gas, with shipments on track to fall to their lowest in 18 months.

Laura made landfall early Thursday near the Texas-Louisiana border, one of the most powerful storms to ever hit the region and raced north.

Ports of Lake Charles, Beaumont and Port Arthur remained closed on Thursday, according to the U.S. Coast Guard.

The Port of Houston, which is the top U.S. crude oil export hub accounting for about 600,000 bpd of shipments, closed on Wednesday and was in the process of reopening to commercial shipping late Thursday, according to the Coast Guard.

Some 50 vessels, most of them tankers, were at anchorage offshore and waiting to re-enter the Houston Shipping Channel, said JJ Plunkett, port agent for the Houston Pilots Association, which guides vessels in and out of the ship channel.

The closures of Houston Port, Beaumont and Port Arthur were expected to reduce seaborne crude export capacity by nearly 1 million bpd, data intelligence firm Kpler estimated, based on average figures over the past four months.

U.S. crude exports averaged about 2.9 million bpd in the last four weeks, according to data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

The closure of those ports would also reduce a total of about 830,000 bpd in refined product departures, Kpler said. 

The Louisiana Offshore Oil Port (LOOP), the largest privately-owned crude terminal in the United States, also suspended operations at its marine terminal on Sunday ahead of the storm. 

Oil tankers have headed back to major loading points along the Gulf Coast on Friday after taking shelter at Corpus Christi on Thursday, shipping data on Refinitiv Eikon showed.

Two LNG tankers are currently waiting near ports to load cargoes while several others are still off the Caribbean, Kpler’s Rebecca Chia said. 

The extent of disruption would depend on any damage inflicted on export and production facilities. Energy companies were gearing up to survey the storm’s impact on Thursday.

Loadings of LNG cargoes from the United States have also been delayed.

LNG exports were on track to fall to 2.1 billion cubic feet per day (bcfd) on Thursday, their lowest since February 2019, according to data from Refinitiv.

“Given the direct hit on the Sabine Pass and Cameron LNG export terminals by Hurricane Laura, they will likely be the last terminals to restart exports in the Gulf,” analysts at ClipperData said in a note, referring to Cheniere Energy Inc’s Sabine Pass and Sempra Energy’s Cameron LNG export plants in Louisiana.

Both plants suspended operations earlier this week and said they would conduct damage assessments as soon as it was safe to do so.

Separately, Venture Global said on Friday that its Calcasieu Pass LNG facility which is under construction in Cameron, Louisiana, has sustained minimal impacts from the hurricane and that it is working with contractors to regain access to the site.

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