Hurricane Ike roars out of the Gulf of Mexico and across eastern Texas

Federal officials moved to facilitate restoration of US Gulf Coast oil and gas production, oil refining and transmission after Hurricane Ike roared through eastern Texas and headed toward north-by-northeast.

"This administration has moved quickly," US President George W. Bush told reporters the morning of Sept. 13. He noted that the Environmental Protection Agency granted waivers on some reformulated gasoline, which will make it easier for imports to enter US markets.

"In the meantime, the Department of Energy, the Federal Trade Commission and state authorities will be monitoring gasoline prices to make sure that consumers are not gouged and are being treated fairly," Bush said.

The National Hurricane Center in Miami reported that Ike made landfall as a strong Category 2 storm just after 3 a.m. EDT near Galveston. The storm's center moved across Baytown, about 25 miles east of Houston, at about 5 a.m. While it had been downgraded to a tropic storm by 2 p.m. EDT, forecasters warned that conditions had grown favorable for tornadoes and continued heavy rainfall.

The US Minerals Management Service in New Orleans reported that as of 11:30 a.m. CDT on Sept. 13, approximately 99.7% of the oil production and 98.5% of the natural gas production in the Gulf of Mexico was shut in. Daily production in the area is normally about 1.3 million bbl of oil and 7.4 billion cubic feet of gas, it said.

Fourteen Texas refineries from Baytown to Corpus Christi with a combined operable capacity of 13.8 million bbl a day had shut down by 10 a.m. EDT on Sept. 13, according to DOE. Refineries farther east which had shut down two weeks earlier because of Hurricane Gustav were either restarting or operating, it added.

DOE said that three of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve's four sites had shut down by 8:30 a.m. Major product pipelines originating in Texas and Louisiana also had shut down, it said.

In an update issued at 11:30 a.m. CDT on Sept. 13, Exxon Mobil Corp. said that its refineries at Baytown and Beaumont, Tex., had safely shut down and preliminary site assessments were under way as weather permitted. Building on what it learned from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005, the company said that global supply plans were in place to use other Exxon Mobil facilities and supply networks worldwide to bring products into the United States.

It said that since 2005, it also had made arrangements for emergency electricity generators to deal with power disruptions at pipelines, terminals, refineries and critical retail outlets. Spare pumps, oil spill response systems and other critical equipment also were pre-positioned throughout company's Gulf Coast refining and petrochemical network, Exxon Mobil said.

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com

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