NEW YORK, Sept 1 (Reuters) – U.S. energy firms did not add any oil rigs this week as Hurricane Harvey barrelled into the nation’s energy heartland, forcing drillers to halt production and refiners to shut plants.
The total oil rig count for the week ended Friday stayed at 759, General Electric Co’s Baker Hughes energy services firm said in its report on Friday.
That compares with 407 active oil rigs during the same week a year ago. Drillers have added rigs in 56 of the past 67 weeks since the start of June 2016.
The rig count is an early indicator of future output.
Hurricane Harvey has killed more than 40 people and brought record flooding to the U.S. oil heartland of Texas, paralyzing at least 4.4 million barrels per day (bpd) of refining capacity, according to company reports and Reuters estimates.
The historic storm has caused massive turmoil in the U.S. energy industry, forcing major product pipelines to shut or reduce capacity and sparking fears of a fuel shortage.
The U.S. government tapped its strategic oil reserves for the first time in five years on Thursday, releasing 1 million barrels of crude to a working refinery in Louisiana.
Oil producers such as EOG Resources Inc, ConocoPhillips and Chesapeake Energy Corp have slowly brought the impacted production back online.
EOG, one of the nation’s largest shale oil and gas producers, said earlier in the week that it resumed operations in some portions of the Eagle Ford shale play after Harvey-forced suspensions. The company did not say how much production it had shut.
Oil prices recouped some losses from earlier in the day on Friday to trade relatively flat as some refineries began to restart, calming fears over fuel shortages.
U.S. crude oil production for June fell 73,000 barrels per day to 9.1 million bpd, data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration showed on Thursday. May crude production was revised up by 1,000 bpd to 9.17 million bpd, according to the EIA’s monthly 914 report.
U.S. commercial crude stocks fell by 5.39 million barrels last week to 457.77 million barrels, the U.S. Energy Information Administration said on Wednesday.
That was down 14.5 percent from record levels reached in March.
The amount of crude entered into refineries reached a record high of 17.73 million bpd, the data showed. The number is expected to have dropped dramatically this week because of infrastructure closures.
Analysts at JBC Energy said that figure could slip to as low as 15-16 million bpd. Others said the refinery closures would lead to a rise in crude inventories.