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    No Tropical Delight

    Storm hinders U.S. Gulf Coast oil refining.

    NEW ORLEANS -- Tropical Storm Isidore forced U.S. Gulf Coast oil refiners to cut back operations Wednesday, a day after almost all Gulf of Mexico crude production was shut in.

    With the storm expected to make land in Louisiana on Thursday, big refiners such as Exxon Mobil Corp., Royal Dutch/Shell and Valero Energy Corp. said they had slowed refinery output, Reuters reported.

    The U.S. National Hurricane Center (NHC) said yesterday at 5:00 the storm was 215 miles south of New Orleans with maximum sustained winds of 65 miles per hour and that strengthening was possible. A tropical storm becomes a hurricane when winds reach at least 74 miles per hour.

    ExxonMobil shut its 190,000-barrel-per-day (bpd) refinery in Chalmette, La., because of the storm. Shell said the 240,000-bpd Motiva oil refinery in Convent, La., had cut its production by half.

    Valero shut an 85,000-bpd unit at its Krotz Springs, La., refinery and reduced runs at its Texas City refinery near Houston by 15,000 bpd due to Isidore's impact on barge traffic.

    In addition to oil refineries, mainly in Louisiana, affected yesterday, some 2.3 million barrels of daily U.S. crude production and deliveries were shut down because of stormy weather earlier this week, the report said.

    Roughly 1.42 million bpd of offshore Gulf of Mexico's 1.5-million bpd crude oil capacity had been shut in by Tuesday afternoon and remained shut Wednesday. An additional 1.4 million barrels of daily deliveries of tankers to the Louisiana Offshore Oil Port (LOOP) were suspended for the fifth straight day.

    Other refiners -- including BP plc, Chevron Texaco Corp., Petroleos de Venezuela's Citgo Petroleum, Conoco Phillips Corp. and Murphy Oil Corp. -- said that they had not yet changed refinery production, but were eyeing Isidore.

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