September 7, 2008 / 7:24 PM / 11 years ago

Hurricane Ike threat stalls Gulf oil recovery

HOUSTON, Sept 7 (Reuters) - The recovery of U.S. offshore oil and natural gas production stalled on Sunday as producers began preparing for a hit from dangerous Hurricane Ike, which is forecast to enter the Gulf of Mexico as early as Tuesday.

“Offshore oil and gas operators in the Gulf of Mexico who are re-boarding platforms and rigs and restoring production following Hurricane Gustav are now starting to take precautions for Hurricane Ike,” the U.S. Minerals Management Service said in a statement on Sunday.

The region’s largest producer, Shell Oil Co (RDSa.L) said on Saturday it would limit redeployments to the minimum of offshore workers needed to begin restarting production.

The company employs 1,400 people offshore and has returned only 615.

“By keeping staff levels to a minimum, we can efficiently evacuate again, if necessary,” Shell said in a statement.

Ike is forecast to be a large and potentially destructive hurricane in the Gulf this week with landfall possible anywhere between Pensacola, Florida and the Texas-Mexico border, also placing all U.S. Gulf Coast refineries at risk.

By Sunday afternoon, Ike was a category 4 storm with 135 mph (215 kph) winds cutting a swath through the Bahamas on its way to Cuba, where hundreds of thousands of people were evacuating inland.

Evacuations have also been ordered for the Florida Keys. (Reporting by Erwin Seba, editing by Leslie Gevirtz)

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