U.S. oil, natural gas companies preparing for 2021 hurricane season -API

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A sign is seen overturned from Hurricane Laura as traffic moves bumper to bumper along I-10 west as residents evacuate ahead of the arrival of Hurricane Delta in Vinton, Louisiana, U.S., October 8, 2020. REUTERS/Adrees Latif

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HOUSTON, May 26 (Reuters) - U.S. oil and natural gas companies are gearing up for this year's forecast of an above-average Atlantic hurricane season, a security and emergency expert with the American Petroleum Institute (API) said on Wednesday.

Last year’s record 30 named storms forced shutdowns of offshore oil production that reached, at one point, 90% of 1.9 million barrels per day in production and idled refineries for weeks.

Two refineries in hard-hit Lake Charles, Louisiana, were shut for months.

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"We're trying to be as prepared as possible in 2021," said Suzanne Lemieux, API's operations security and emergency manager, said on a conference call with energy industry experts to discuss hurricane season preparations.

Oil and gas companies have increased the number of drills and exercises, she said.

U.S. Gulf Coast refiners have revised plans after widespread storm-related outages, said Jeff Gunnulfsen, director of security and risk management for trade group American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers.

Refiners have increased communication with government agencies and other industries as well as hardening refinery units and repositioning equipment to avoid floodwaters, Gunnulfsen said.

The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) forecast between three and five major hurricanes this year, with sustained winds of at least 111 miles per hour (178 kph).

Between six and 10 hurricanes with winds of at least 74 mph (119 kph) are expected out of 13-20 tropical storms in 2021, NOAA forecasters said. Tropical storms have winds of at least 39 mph (63 kph).

The average for tropical cyclones in the Atlantic between 1991 and 2020 is three major hurricanes, seven hurricanes and 14 tropical storms. The average increased after NOAA shifted the 30-year period used to set the averages earlier this year. read more

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Reporting by Erwin Seba; Editing by Howard Goller

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