The U.S. is about to get hit by its fourth hurricane in less than two months as Hurricane Nate approaches the Gulf Coast, where it is expected to make landfall Saturday evening.
The storm could have a nationwide effect on gas prices as it disrupts oil production in the Gulf of Mexico. Disruptions to the east were largely avoided when Hurricane Harvey made landfall over Houston, causing Texas coast refineries to close.
Nate, which has strengthened to a Category 2 hurricane, is already having an impact on Gulf oil refineries that have shuttered operations as the storm approaches.
BP announced Thursday it would stop all oil and gas production in the region and evacuate personnel from its four platforms, Reuters reported. Phillips 66 has also shuttered production, according to CNBC, while Valero and PBF Energy plan to continue production.
The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement estimates it has paused production of about 1.6 million barrels of oil per day in the Gulf of Mexico, or about 92 percent of its typical output.
BSEE has evacuated people from 302 production platforms, which is about 40 percent of the 737 manned platforms in the Gulf of Mexico. Thirteen rigs were evacuated, while 16 rigs that are not moored to the seafloor were moved out of the hurricane’s path.
Hurricane watches and warnings were issued for parts of the Gulf Coast Saturday as the National Hurricane Center said the storm is moving at 25 miles per hour towards land, where heavy rains and storm surge create flooding risks, as well as the possibility of tornado formation.
Gas prices fell to $2.52 nationwide this week before Hurricane Nate, continuing to come down after previous hurricane volatility.