Editor's note: This article was updated at 1:30 p.m. Oct. 13. 

As U.S. Gulf of Mexico (GoM) oil and gas producers regroup from Hurricane Nate, the level of shut-in oil and gas production has dropped further with about seven weeks left in the Atlantic hurricane season.

The production pause, which shut-in more than 1 MMbbl/d of production at one point, will likely lower the 2017 production average, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) told Hart Energy.

The storm forced the shut-in of more than 92% of GoM’s daily oil production and more than 77% of daily gas production before it made landfall late Oct. 7 near the mouth of the Mississippi River in southeast Louisiana.

Figures released Oct. 12 by the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) show less than 20% of daily oil production and about 12% of daily gas production remained shut-in. That’s about 344,000 barrels per day (bbl/d) of oil and just less than 400 million cubic feet (MMcf/d) of gas.

By Oct. 13 the percentage of daily oil production shut-in was down to less than 13%, or just less than 220,500 bbl/d. The amount of daily gas production shut-in was down to about 7%, or nearly 238 MMcf/d.

BSEE also reported that personnel remain evacuated from less than 2% of the GoM’s 737 manned platforms. All of the GoM’s non-dynamically positioned (DP) rigs and DP rigs were back to work. The information was based on reports from 15 companies operating in the GoM.

“As the storm has passed, operators will continue to re-board and inspect their facilities. Once all standard checks have been completed, production from undamaged facilities will be brought back online immediately,” BSEE said. “Any facilities sustaining damage may take longer to bring back online. Currently, no damages have been reported.”

Earlier this week, several companies provided updates on production restarts. Chevron Corp. and ExxonMobil Corp. were among the most recent.

Chevron said Oct. 11 that it has resumed normal operations after evacuating offshore staff and shutting in at least five GoM platforms, and ExxonMobil said a day earlier it had resumed operations at its Julia and Hadrian South subsea production system, Reuters reported.

Nate arrived about seven weeks after Hurricane Harvey, which shut-in only about a quarter of GoM daily oil and gas production but wreaked more havoc onshore with flooding and shuttered refineries.

The Atlantic region has experienced a rather active season with nine hurricanes so far. This compares with seven in 2016 and four in 2015, according to the Hurricane Research Division of National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration’s Atlantic Oceanographic & Meteorological Laboratory.

In the latest Short-term Energy Outlook (STEO), the EIA estimated GoM crude oil production jumped to a monthly average of 1.7 million (MMbbl/d) in September, following Harvey. That’s up 70,000 bbl/d from the August tally.

The EIA was unable to include the full impact of Hurricane Nate into its October 2017 STEO because modeling closed Oct. 5, the EIA’s Tim Hess told Hart Energy in a statement.

The “EIA did assume an average outage 35,000 bbl/d crude oil production outage for the month of October,” Hess said. “However, based on current data from the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement the outage from Hurricane Nate, when averaged over the 31 days of October, is between 250,000 bbl/d and 300,000 bbl/d. An outage of this size would lower total 2017 production by average of about 20,000 bbl/d.”

The updated figures will be reflected in the EIA’s November STEO, which is set for release Nov. 7, he added.

But the U.S. still appears to be on course to grow total production, including from the GoM where seven developments were expected to come online in 2017 and 2018. These, according to an EIA report release in April, included the planned 2018 field startups of:

  • Stone Energy’s Amethyst;
  • BP’s Atlantis North;
  • Hess Corp.’s Stampede-Knotty Head and Stampede-Pony; and
  • LLOG Exploration’s Otis.

The EIA forecast the U.S. to break the 1970 annual production record of 9.6 MMbbl/d for total U.S. crude oil production in 2018. Total crude oil production, led by growth from prolific shale plays, is forecast to average 9.9 MMbbl/d next year, growing from an expected 9.2 MMbbl/d this year.

Likewise, total dry gas production in the U.S. is also forecast to rise, ending this year at an average 73.6 billion cubic feet per day (Bcf/d), up 0.8 Bcf/d from 2016.

Velda Addison can be reached at vaddison@hartenergy.com.